The first tax season after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was full of surprises. When the IRS published its weekly filing statistics during the last week of tax season , the numbers confirmed what many taxpayers were shocked to see when they finished their returns: namely, that tax refunds were both smaller and a bit harder to come by. The number of refunds decreased by 1.9%, while their size decreased by 1.3% (or about $36–this is a correction from the $55 reported on the show). In this episode we talk about what happened and why, our national love affair with tax refunds, corporate tax avoidance, and why the IRS isn’t pursuing as many investigations despite new data that reveals that more people are cheating on their taxes.
A show outline and links can be found below the cut.
- Intro: smaller refunds, unexpected bills
- JH’s notes from the field: an accountant’s-eye view of tax season
- How do we explain these changes?
- Tax refunds: why do we expect them? What are the benefits and drawbacks of receiving one?
- The number of people and businesses cheating on their taxes has increased, but not much is being done about it–why?
- Speaking of tax avoidance: how do large corporations manage to pay $0 in corporate taxes?
- How does tax avoidance affect the economy, and what are we going to do about it?
- What can individuals and business owners who received unpleasant surprises on their tax returns this year do to prevent the same thing from happening next year?
From the US Department of the Treasury: How much did the US government collect and spend in 2018?
Here is another outline of tax law changes, this time for businesses.
If you want an inside look at the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that combines analysis (and admittedly, pointed critique) with journalistic flair, the Center for Public Integrity has partnered with The Guardian for a deep dive into the origins and impact of the law.
“In 1998, only about 5,000 employers hadn’t paid their payroll taxes in at least five years. By December 2015, according to IRS records, the number had more than tripled to 17,000.” :Millions are cheating on their taxes, but fewer people are getting caught
Some tax savings appear to be shaking out along party lines, with those in Republican-leaning states benefiting more from the new tax law’s limits on state and local tax deductions.
Still stewing about your tax refund? Adjust your withholding. The IRS explains how here.
“Half the respondents to a new survey [of small business owners] saw their tax bill drop. Some tout the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as a reason. Another equal amount reported their tax bill remained the same.”