It is not often that the left-leaning Washington Post takes the side of President Donald Trump over a Democrat.
It is even rarer for the newspaper to do it when the Democrat is popular and a potential opponent for President trump in 2020.
But that is precisely what the Washington Post did when fact-checker Glenn Kessler shredded Sen. Kamala Harris’ misinformation about President Trump’s tax cuts.
“The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year. Let’s call the President’s tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%,” Sen. Harris said on Twitter.
But the issue is that her tweet does not tell the entire story.
In fact it purposefully leaves out the most important part of the story which is that the government is giving back less because it took less.
Harris, who is running for president in 2020, attacked President Trump’s tax law after the Internal Revenue Service reported that preliminary data shows that the average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared with last year.
Boy, talk about a non sequitur that turns out to be nonsensical and misleading. Let’s take a look.
The average tax refund is down, at least according to very preliminary data for returns processed through Feb. 1. (That’s essentially one week of filing data.) But the size of a refund tells you nothing about a person’s tax bill.
The tax law required the IRS to change tax withholding tables. The IRS encouraged Americans to review and update their W-4 forms to make sure the right amount was being withheld from their paychecks, but a survey by H&R Block indicated that 80 percent of Americans failed to do so.
In other words, if you left everything just the same, you can’t expect the same result. The new tax law raised the standard deduction but also eliminated personal and dependent tax exemptions. While the law reduced tax rates, it also capped a deduction for state, local and real estate taxes, which could really mess up a person’s tax situation, especially if they live in a state with high taxes such as California, New York and New Jersey.
But the size of the tax refund has no bearing on whether a person’s taxes rose or fell. A person might end up giving less of their income to the IRS — and still end up with a smaller tax refund.
“Change in refunds does not equate to change in tax liability, since withholding amounts were adjusted,” said Joseph Rosenberg, senior research associate at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Though few people look at this way, a smaller tax refund means you gave less of a loan to the U.S. government over the course of the year. Ideally, you should end up with no refund or tax due.