Millions treat federal tax withholding as a kind of savings account. They look forward to receiving a fat check from the IRS each spring — money that would have gone to day-to-day living expenses, had they received it in their paychecks.
But this year a lot of them will be getting a lot less back — and some will be shocked to find they owe the government hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
Early filers are already learning that average refunds are down more than 8% from last year:
“…filers’ tax refunds are about $170 lower than last year,” reports CBS News. “The average refund so far this year is $1,865, down from $2,035 in 2018.” And the IRS says the number of Americans receiving any refund at all is down by about a quarter.
This is provoking outrage on social media, with many blaming President Trump:
“The Government Accountability Office pointed to an IRS estimate that about 4.6 million fewer filers would receive refunds this tax filing season,” reports the Washington Post. “Another 4.6 million filers were likely to owe money who had not had that experience in the past.” Many more will get a refund, but a smaller one than previously.
The main reason tax refunds are down is that the IRS made big changes to its “withholding tables” for 2018, bringing the amount withheld from paychecks more in line with what taxpayers actually owe.
Yet many Americans clearly prefer getting that once-a-year check to seemingly small increases in their regular pay, which puzzles tax experts like Nicole Kaeding of the Tax Foundation, a conservative think thank.
“Getting a tax refund means that you gave the government an interest-free loan because you overpaid your taxes,” she told the Post.
Going forward, Miami, Florida CPA Steve Dohan says people may want to pay more attention to the deductions that are coming out of each paycheck.
“Everyone should check how much their withholding was on their paychecks in 2018 vs 2017. Many people may find that less money was taken out of each paycheck due to a change
ontheir w4’s. As for the people who truly might see a lower refund, they are most likely those who can no longer deduct all their state and local taxes (SALT).”