Federal Tax Refund 2019: Americans shocked by the impact of the new tax law: "My jaw dropped to the ground"


Wait, I have the IRS?

The first reporting period under the new federal tax law is surprising, confusing – and sometimes scary – for some Americans, especially those who are used to recovering government money.

Take Andy Kraft and Amy Elias from Portland, Oregon. The couple had become comfortable with a small refund each year, a few hundred dollars or more. They then discovered that they owed $ 10,160 this year.

"I will never forget this moment, I thought," We look good, "then we added the next W-2 and my jaw dropped to the ground," Kraft said. "I absolutely did not want to believe that what I was looking at was accurate."

President Trump promised a tax cut with the new law. And by most measures, the majority of Americans will see one. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center predicted that the tax law would reduce personal income taxes by an average of about $ 1,260, although this benefits higher incomes. But not everyone benefits, including some taxpayers who have not adjusted their withholding.

The IRS has encouraged people to perform a "paycheck check", stating that "some taxpayers may prefer to have less tax withheld and receive more in their paychecks". The problem is that few Americans seem to have done it.

Why you may get a lower tax refund this year

The majority of workers did not bother to change their withholding, according to the ADP payroll company.

"Few people have taken the time or the trouble to see if the law on the reduction of employment and employment taxes affects them personally", recently told CBS News Pete Isberg, head of relations with the government at ADP.

Less deductions

Some people have already seen the benefit in the form of larger paychecks. This is because the law has forced employers to change what they have withheld. But the system is far from perfect and many workers did not have enough tax set aside. Now, the IRS wants this money.

In addition, the law also removed personal exemptions, increased child credits, limited popular deductions and generally upset many known practices that determine what happens at the time of imposition. Taxpayers feel a little moored.

"We were very comfortable with our tax legislation, which had been in existence since 1986. Suddenly, all these very important things for people have changed (…), everything is different," Gleckman said. a senior fellow of the Tax Policy Center.

"Grief of acceptance"

Kraft and Elias are able to pay their tax bill, but he remains stunned. He even tried to do reverse engineering to determine where they went wrong, plunging page after page into the rules of the IRS. He meticulously gathered all the numbers. The couple finally asked a CPA to check the numbers they saw in TurboTax. Crushly, they were right.

The effective tax rate of the couple was lower, but they still owed the government.

"I have the impression of having reached a stage of heartbreak of acceptance," he said. "In a twisted fashion, I would have had to pay this all year and now I have to pay it in one lump sum.

A number of experts, such as Gleckman, urge taxpayers to be less concerned about their repayment or what they owe when they measure the effect of the new tax law. These are just a few examples of your tax situation.

But the truth is that many Americans have come to rely on refunds. About three-quarters of US taxpayers receive one and their average salary is about $ 2,800. For some low-income households, this is the biggest cash injection of the year.

Fewer refunds

The IRS reported Thursday that the Average tax refund from the second week Filing season was $ 1,949, down 8.7% from the previous year. The total number of refunds is down by 16%.

Experts warn that it is too early to draw any conclusions about a tax season that ends in April. In addition, the number of returns – 27 million as of February 8 – is down 10% from last year, partly due to the partial closure of the government. The picture will become much clearer as more and more deposits are processed, refunds will be made and the IRS will be reinstated at full speed.

Nevertheless, the first results surprised the first registrants and worried those who have not yet raised their taxes.

Part of the problem is how employees and employers have adjusted (or not) payroll deductions to reflect changes in the law. The government has issued updated guidelines on payroll deductions to help employers determine the amount to be set aside in an employee's salary to cover taxes. Hold back too much and you get a refund at the time of the tax; too little and you have to.

It's at best an estimate. But it's an estimate that has become a lot harder to do with the new law.

According to a report released last summer, the Government Accountability Office estimated that about 30 million workers had not withheld their paychecks too much, which allowed them to increase their take-home pay. , while increasing their tax liability. That's about 3 million more workers than normal.

Few taxpayers seem to have followed the IRS's advice to conduct a "pay check check" in order to make sure that they had the amount withheld. The payroll processor, ADP, which is responsible for paying one in six Americans, said the vast majority of users in its system had not updated their deductions last year.

More surprises

Some taxpayers who made adjustments found that they could not fully understand.

Kevin McCreanor, of Milton, Georgia, and his wife normally receive a large refund each year – they rose to more than $ 12,000 last year. If they know that waiting for a large refund is not the best financial strategy, they like the repayments and put everything they bring back in the bank. 39, education of their daughters. Their earnings, derived mainly from his wife's work in telecommunications, can vary considerably. It was comforting to never face a big bill.

The couple increased deductions on their pay check to ensure the same, but found that he was only getting $ 519 this year. Their incomes and tax rates have increased, and McCreanor acknowledges that he probably could have done more to prepare himself, but he is still very disappointed.

Some surprises, however, were welcome. Brian Goodell and his wife usually have to pay between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 a year. But this year, the couple Tigard, Oregon, gets a refund of $ 15,000. They believe they have taken advantage of the increase in child tax credit. They also made more charitable donations and increased their deductions. Although Goodell does not really know why it worked so well, he will gladly accept the refund.

Taxpayers can get a better idea of ​​how they came out by looking at their tax liability or their effective tax rate. This information is often available on the summary received from an accountant or tax preparation software. They can also consult the "total tax" on these summaries or Form 1040. They are not perfect measures either, but they offer some perspective.

Profitable level

And remember that getting a refund is not necessarily a good thing. The breakeven is really the best result from an economic point of view. If you get a refund, it means the government has kept your money when you could have used it.

In addition, consider that taxes are rarely an equal comparison from year to year, said Eric Bronnenkant, Tax Manager at Betterment and CPA and Certified Financial Planner. People's lives change in ways that significantly influence their taxes, such as marriages, divorces, children, removals or job changes. The average taxpayer may not fully realize the impact of some of these changes.

"I'm not surprised by people's reaction," said Bronnekant. "I think for some people, the reaction is more justified than others."

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