US taxpayers face bitter surprise after Trump's tax cuts | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 15, 2019

US taxpayers face bitter surprise after Trump's tax cuts

Some taxpayers are getting a bitter surprise this year as their usual annual tax refunds have shrunk -- or turned into tax bills -- even though President Donald Trump loudly promised the largest tax cut "in American history."

And with tax season underway, thousands of unhappy taxpayers have been venting their displeasure on Twitter, using hashtags like #GOPTaxscam, and some threatened not to vote for Trump again.

"Lowest refund I have ever had and I am 50 yrs old. No wall and now this tax reform sucks too!!" a woman going by "Speziale-Matheny" wrote from the crucial political swing state of Florida.

"Starting to doubt Trump. I voted for him and trusted him too."

During the year, American wage earners see a portion of each paycheck withheld as income tax, and many then receive a refund the following year if they have overpaid the federal government. That cash boost is eagerly awaited each year -- and used to help pay off debt or make large purchases.

But the 2017 tax overhaul -- which Republicans promoted as a boon to the middle class -- meant many workers paid less in taxes during the year reducing the amount withheld, a change which may have gone unnoticed.

And the reform also cut some popular deductions, sometimes resulting in thinner refunds or even unexpected tax bills.

Early data from the US Internal Revenue Service show that refunds so far this year are 8.4 percent lower than 2018 payouts on average, falling to $1,865 from $2,035.

However, many millions more taxpayers will be filing tax returns by the annual April 15 deadline, meaning this figure could change.

Mark Mazur, assistant treasury secretary for tax policy under former President Barack Obama, told AFP the negative reaction was "understandable."

"People focused on the amount of the refund but that's not the same as their tax liability, the amount of tax they pay for the year," he said.

Because of lower withholding during the year, some taxpayers have in effect already seen the benefit of the tax cut in their higher paychecks, said Mazur, who is vice president at the Urban Institute.

About five percent of taxpayers -- 7.5 million people -- will in fact see a tax increase, while about 80 percent should pay less, he said.

- 'Angry, disappointed and betrayed'

The IRS on Wednesday said taxpayers who suddenly found they owe taxes could pay their bill in installments and apply for a waiver of penalties normally imposed for failing to pay by the deadline.

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