Millions of Americans could be stunned as their tax refunds shrink

By Heather Long | The Washington Post

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refund will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have taken to social media, using the hashtag GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many are blaming President Donald Trump and Republicans for their shrinking refund. Some on Twitter have even said they voted for Trump but won’t do so again after seeing their refund slashed.

The uproar comes after Trump and congressional Republicans passed a major overhaul of the tax code in December 2017, the biggest legislative achievement of the president’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans did get a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of the changes in the tax code made by the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks.

John Prugh of Ewing Twp., New Jersey, was irate when he completed his 2018 tax return this month and discovered his refund would be $3,000 less than what he received last year. Prugh considers himself “solidly middle class.”

The 39-year-old is a manager at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore, and his wife works for the state government. They have two children. Prugh said he had no reason to think their tax situation would change this year, since he and his wife have lived in the same house for years and have received about the same pay in their jobs and have two kids.

“It totally feels like a scam,” said Prugh, who did not vote for Trump. “I did still get a small refund, but compared to what I was expecting from previous years, it was shock.”

The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year versus last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund has dropped by almost a quarter.

An IRS spokesman said not to read much into this early data because it only reflects returns processed through Feb. 1, and the partial government shutdown caused some delays in processing filings.

The early data can shift around a lot, tax experts say, but there’s reason to believe frustrations could rise as more Americans complete their tax returns. The Government Accountability Office warned last summer that the number of tax filers who receive refunds was likely to drop for the 2018 tax year and the number of filers who owe money would rise.

The GAO pointed to an IRS estimate that about 4.6 million fewer filers would receive refunds this tax filing season. Another 4.6 million filers were likely to owe money who hadn’t had that experience in the past.

There is no estimate for how many people will still receive a refund but a smaller one than before.

Many Americans may confuse their small refund as a sign that they paid more in taxes …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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