Fox News tells Americans to stop complaining about their shrunken tax refunds

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

As Americans begin to prepare their 2018 federal tax returns, many are facing the unpleasant surprise that their tax refunds will be smaller this year or that they may even owe money to the government. This comes despite — or perhaps because of — the tax bill passed by the Republican Congress in late 2017 and signed by President Donald Trump, which Trump falsely promised would give everyone a tax cut, but actually raised taxes on many middle class Americans.

On Wednesday, Fox & Friends attempted to spin the situation, blaming taxpayers who should have somehow known to have adjust their withholding a year ago and should have saved more.

Noting that the average tax refund has dropped 8.4 percent since last year, guest and Fox Business Network host Charles Payne claimed Americans should have used their “fatter paychecks” more wisely.

“Here’s the thing. For the most part, the IRS is telling everyone that they just simply did not make the proper adjustments on the withholding at the beginning of the year. So they have been making all of this money,” he said.

He added that employers and taxpayers should have known better, because the Internal Revenue Service “put a lot more memos out” about how to recalculate payroll deductions.

“Of course most people didn’t do that. While people were obviously seeing fatter paychecks they were still counting on that refund they always got. Which is interesting because, you kind of hinted at it, that we would allow the IRS to have like a $2,000 loan, our money, right? Hold on to it because we overpaid. So people should probably consider making these adjustments anyway, unless you want to give the IRS two or three grand of your money to hold for a year. Maybe they can make the interest on it and you won’t.”

The “fatter paycheck” claim applies mostly to higher income earners rather than the average American. Most people did not notice a significant increase in their paychecks as a result of the bill, which mostly benefited the very rich and corporations.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lead author of the tax bill, also tried to persuade taxpayers to be grateful for their diminished returns this week, tweeting a misleading claim that tax refunds had nothing to do with the overall tax bill.

“Refunds are a sign you’re overpaying the IRS monthly,” he wrote. “Most Americans got tax cut in 2018 paychecks — when needed the most. 90% of middle class got [a] $2,100 [average] tax cut.”

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who backed the bill, incorrectly claimed that tax refunds are down because most people “owed less income tax.” And Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who helped push the bill through the Senate, argued “less taxes = less withholding = less refunds” — a gross oversimplification.

According to the Tax Policy Center those in the bottom 20 percent of earners likely saw an average tax cut of about $60 total for the year. The next 20 percent could expect just a $380 total cut, while the top 0.1 percent of Americans saved an average of more than $190,000.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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