Oh, the misplaced agony and outrage over smaller IRS refund checks!

For a while this morning the lede news story on Yahoo!’s opening page was a HuffPost piece about people being angry that they are getting smaller refunds due to the Trump tax cuts.

The story reports on the chagrin thusly:

“The average refund check paid out so far has been $1,865, down from $2,035 at the same point in 2018, according to IRS data. Low-income taxpayers often file early to pocket the money as soon as possible. Many taxpayers count on the refunds to make important payments, or spend the money on things like home repairs, a vacation or a car.”

The story does at one point in passing note that the tax code changes meant that in some cases not enough money was withheld by employers. But nowhere in it does it note that in the vast majority of these cases the total tax bill for 2018 is less than the prior year. People just got to kept it with each paycheck and did not make interest-free loans to the federal government.

At the least the USA Today version of this story does mention the overall lower tax bill, but not until the last paragraph, which reads:

“Getting a smaller refund doesn’t mean you’re paying more in total in taxes. In many cases, much of your tax savings showed up in each paycheck, which could result in a smaller refund.”

As Bugs Bunny would say: What a bunch of maroons. Chalk this up as fake news.

USA Today photo illustration


19 comments on “Oh, the misplaced agony and outrage over smaller IRS refund checks!

  1. ronknecht says:

    Spot on, Mitch. I noticed all that too.


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Common Sense says:

    “Telling the absolute truth is fake news”

    What the far right wing has sunk to so as to destroy the free press in the country.

  3. … omitting pertinent facts is not the absolute truth.

  4. Common Sense says:

    So, the stories saying peoples tax refunds were less than last year were untrue?

    I mean if we’re focused on the WHOLE truth here, before we can call a story true or not, can any story ever be written that isn’t “fake news” given the limits of space and/or knowledge?

    How about a story from the administration about peoples checks being bigger as evidence of how great their tax cut is working, but leaving out the part that not only did they change the rules regarding deductions, but that these undisclosed rule changes were going to mean lower income tax refunds.

    Strangely enough, when that story was being told, I don’t remember any similar attack on it as being fake news round these parts.

    Probably an oversight though.

  5. Steve says:

    Cannot be overstated, IF YOU ARE GETTING A “REFUND” YOU PAID TOO MUCH!
    Overpayments DO NOT EARN INTEREST. In fact a refund is subject to inflationary trends, making the money worth less than it was when you gave it to the government.

    Smaller refunds mean you got more in your periodic paychecks.
    Pay what is owed, save/invest the difference for retirement. Those small amounts add up really fast.

  6. Bill says:

    Most incomes are subject to withholding by the employer. With lower tax rates the employer with held less from the taxpayer’s wages. Less withholding by the employer means more money to the employee paid directly in wages as opposed to overpaying and having to petition the government for a refund of what has been paid.

    The reportage may be fake news but just as likely it is ignorance since many in the media have no understanding of how government and or tax codes operate.

    It should also be noted that the estimates are that 44% of the U.S.A. will not be paying any federal income tax in 2018. And too, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the top one percent of United States taxpayers (1.4 million) paid as much in federal income taxes as the bottom 95 percent (134 million) in 2015.

  7. Rincon says:

    Although I don’t appreciate those who report only half of the pertinent information in an article, I have seen worse examples in this space. The difference is that here, the articles are clearly editorials and not being passed off as news items. I agree, Thomas. Although this is not fake news, it is badly slanted.

  8. Rincon says:

    Do you have a source to share, Bill, regarding the information about the share of taxes paid by the one percent? It seems to mostly agree with the Tax Foundation, which says, “The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (29.1 percent). https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-data-2016-update/
    But 29 vs 39% is quite a difference. Is the Tax Foundation massaging the figures?

    The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 27.1 percent individual income tax rate. https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-data-2016-update/
    In light of this, I suspect that the reason they pay so much income tax is not because their rates are so high, but because they make so much income. Somehow, they keep getting richer, and this may partly result because their taxes are actually low, at least by historical standards. The top income tax rates have plunged dramatically. From 1954 to 1963, the top rate was 91% https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_taxation_in_the_United_States

    Interestingly, as a percentage of GDP, our income taxes are about the same as they were in the late ’60’s So much for the Conservative myth of endlessly higher taxes.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_taxation_in_the_United_States (second graph)

    If you’re complaining about the low tax rates of the middle and lower classes, take heart. Income tax isn’t calculated the way most of us believe: “Then as now, income tax rates moved up at distinct break points. In this made-up example, consider a 15% rate up to $25,000, 21% from $25,000 to $50,000, and 25% over $50,000. Those making $50,001 or more won’t pay a quarter of their total income, but rather 15% of the first $25,000, 21% of the next $25,000, and 25% of everything above $50K.” https://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/24489 This means the wealthy receive the same low tax rates as their poorer brethren. They just can’t have them for their entire total income.

  9. Bill says:

    Might I suggest, Rincon, that a slanted editorial posing as “news” is by definition “fake” news. Just an interesting point to ponder. You seem to be a thoughtful person.

  10. Bill says:

    Perhaps every reporter, editor, commentator and certainly all teachers, professors and students ought to be required to watch this video:

  11. Bill says:

    How Tax System Works. Sorry, I screwed up the link.

  12. Rincon says:

    It seems your second attempt has been derailed as well. I got an error message when when I attempted to play it.

    I do agree with you that a greatly slanted news article could legitimately be called fake news, but perhaps the term should be reserved for only the most egregious cases since slanting runs through an entire spectrum. Even the most conscientious journalist cannot avoid slanting the news to a minor extent just because of the necessity to select those stories which run and those facts that should be included, but those that make little attempt to balance their work are enemies of our republic. for they are the purveyors of propaganda.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There isn’t a single story tht can be told, about anything, that can include even half of the facts that relate to that particular story. There’s not enough ones and zeros in the world and to allow anyone to call a story about a subject “fake” simply because of this truth, is to allow the meaning of the word truth to disappear.

    And that is what this far right wing administration is attempting to accomplish, and has actually accomplished, amongst it’s far right wing audience.

    It’s uncharted territory.

  14. Bill says:

    Sorry about my electronic ineptitude. It was a version of “the tax system explained in beer”.

    That was a thoughtful reply, Rincon.

    In my view, it is not just the reporting that is a concern. We must always be alert for the occasional pernicious owner, editor or editorial board that often hold sway over whether a story is even published.

    Whether right or left, one should be concerned about the necessity in a free society of a truthful media, particularly in this age of mega media conglomerates.

  15. Anonymous says:

    There are 2 good things happening in today’s world of journalism.
    The growing cadre of fact checking endeavors coupled with the startup bias checking work currently in its infancy.
    Knowing the facts and bias of any outlet is powerful. Being able to double check the double check, with just a few mouse clicks, is empowering.

    The second infant appearing is the non profit, donation funded, online only, local/state news media efforts. These are appearing in more and more places nationwide. They tend to specialize in one or two areas of coverage, but this will change as the old school, for profit, private owner publications relying on a captive audience slip away into the annals of history. The conglomerates only support these as long as they can wring a profit out of them and that is rapidly disappearing. In the coming years they will slice up the remains and sell off anything of value.

    We have the tools to find the bias and the facts, all we need do is double check and accept that we may be (are, most certainly) biased in our own view on things. Then have the cajones to adjust our own attitudes about our own biases while calling out others for their own bias.
    This way, reality is viewable. But if we insist on believing our own bias is the center, we will never find reality.
    Or truth.

  16. Steve says:

    Hmm, something wiped out my info.
    Anon is my post, this time.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I suppose there have always been those who try to commandeer the media in order to advance their own views. Things have been changing fast lately, throwing our society off balance. Hopefully, we can adapt to the presence of malefactors. The good news is that we always have in the past. The bad news is that there are plenty of people that trust only their “cult”, if you will, who spread propaganda that hobbles the ability of the people to discern the truth. The new fact checking paradigm that Steve pointed out is a big part of the answer, Another way to fight this is for all of us to avoid forwarding political Emails, Facebook posts, etc. unless we have fact checked them. Let’s not become part of the problem.

    Web sites like this one help tremendously in combating disinformation by creating critical dialog. Thank you, Thomas, for this valuable service.

  18. Rincon says:

    Hmmm…I’m having trouble with information disappearing too. I’m Anonymous above.

  19. Steve says:

    Probably WordPress. Making “feature improvements”

    I had to add my info to this post.

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