It's like a paycheck advance, not a rebate.
July 27, 2001 6:50 PM   Subscribe

It's like a paycheck advance, not a rebate. You thought the great tax relief of 2001 was a rebate on those huge surpluses the US gov't didn't know what to do with right? Nope, it's merely an advance on the refund of taxes you'll file next year, and here's the kicker: you may or may not be getting any refund at all next year. Tax relief? Tax rebate? Simply owing the $300 back next April? Who came up with this stupid idea? (truth courtesy of Megnut)
posted by mathowie (44 comments total)

 
So, even if we didn't cash this check, we're still screwed one way or the other come next tax season, huh? I had been wondering for a while now what the catch was, now I know. Thanks, Matt.
posted by headspace at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2001


I don't get this complaint. Wouldn't you rather receive the $300 (or $600) now than a year later?
posted by gyc at 6:57 PM on July 27, 2001


gyc: I'd rather receive it later, actually. If I'm due back a refund on my federal income tax, the $300 is deducted from that, but if I don't get a refund, I owe $300 more in tax. I didn't ask to borrow money from the government, thank you very much.

Oh, and not only that, but if you live in a state with a state income tax, you may have to count your "rebate" as income on your state return.

Merry Christmas from the Republican Party.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:07 PM on July 27, 2001


I predict that 99% of Americans won't even remember this by the time this bites them in the ass in April 2002.
posted by Dirjy at 7:11 PM on July 27, 2001


I didn't ask to borrow money from the government

It's not really a loan since you're not exactly paying any interest on it. Take the $300, buy a CD, and you might even end up making a few bucks (and I emphasize few) before next year. So basically, think of it as the government taking you out to lunch at McD's.
posted by gyc at 7:24 PM on July 27, 2001


I might point out that it will only bite them in the ass if they experience a downturn in income status (which about 70000 people in the Bay Area have so far).

Either way, I see nothing wrong with it. This is the government implementing a tax reduction without you having to wait. It's the opposite of the...uhhhh....what do you call it when you have to pay the IRS quarterly because you get beau coup income as an independent contractor?

Wel, whatever... Again, the government is giving the citizen the benefit of the doubt (insofar as continued level of income). With that comes the ability to step into a noose. If you expect your income to be lower this year than last, you best account for it... You only have another nine months to save up that $300...
posted by fooljay at 7:28 PM on July 27, 2001


if you live in a state with a state income tax, you may have to count your "rebate" as income on your state return.

It's my impression that most states calculate income tax on your adjusted gross income from your Federal form. This won't change, so it won't affect you if your state calculates tax this way.

So if the 2001 tax rates aren't actually being reduced, why did they just reduce my payroll deduction by over $30 a month? They're sending me $300, plus they're taking $200 less from me over the course of the remainder of the year. How exactly is that supposed to work out?
posted by kindall at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2001


I don't think anyone is trying to portray this as the government trying to steal money from you. My problem with it is that it's disingenuous, portraying what is essentially an advance on your (potential) refund as a "rebate". It implies that you're getting money back, when you actually aren't, you just get to hold it for a while. And all for the express purpose of making political hay. It's a parlor trick, it's misdirection. This hand is giving you a check for $300, so you don't notice the other hand signing over the country to corporations. This little stunt will actually cost us money in the long run, too, in terms of the administration cost of implementing the refund, printing the checks, ad bureaucratic nauseum.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:52 PM on July 27, 2001


It really spells trouble for those people disciplined enough to set their withholding at the legal minimum and invest the money before the April reckoning, as this looks to make them much more likely to push into penalty territory.
posted by NortonDC at 8:02 PM on July 27, 2001


I think RylandDotNet's on the right track here-- the problem is not necessarily the tax payment scheme itself, but the use of the word 'refund,' and the way the 'refund' is being portrayed, by a (until now) incredibly passive media-- not to mention the government itself.
posted by chaz at 8:04 PM on July 27, 2001


It's an advance on the refund you'll get when you file next April.

Which are refunds for over-paying your taxes, so this is a rebate (for most people) of monies already taken by the fedGov

Why people are overjoyed to get a big refund every year always amazes me, I lent the government money and they're giving it back to me with zero interest, Yippy!

The article is wrong, it's that damn liberal media spin again!
posted by Mick at 8:05 PM on July 27, 2001


OK, finance 101 here. If you get a check back after you file your taxes in April, that check is for money that you have already given the federal government even though it doesn't belong to them. It is indeed a refund. It is a refund of money that you gave to the federal (not the state - that's has nothing to do with this issue) government that didn't really belong to them. It wasn't the government's money, it was your money. Does it matter if the "refund" is paid on August 15 or on May 15 in order for you to believe that the money belongs to you?

It implies that you're getting money back, when you actually aren't, you just get to hold it for a while

To quote The Clash, Wrong 'em Boyo. The situation is the reverse. You are actually getting back, in advance, the money that the government estimates it will over-withhold from you. You get to keep it forever as opposed to the government getting to "hold it for a while."

In short, if you get money back after filing your taxes, it means that you have overpaid and you have kindly given the government a double interest free loan (you got no interest on the money taken out of your pocket, and the government paid no interest on the use of your money).
posted by dchase at 8:29 PM on July 27, 2001


Let me reiterate what dchase and Mick said, because some people are too blinded with proletariat passions that they can't operate a calculator.

In each paycheck I received this year, there was tax money taken out. It was taken out at a rate of X%. That's my income tax rate that the government assumes I will maintain over the year.

If in mid-year, the government lowers that tax rate to (X-5)%, then that means that the government is holding 5% too much of all of the checks I've received.

Normally, this would be taken care of on April 15th when I tell the government, "Hey, you took out too much, gimme some candy".

However, the government is saying, "We're not going to make you wait to have the money back that's rightfully yours anyway. Here's a check to make up for the overcharge".

The only people who will be screwed are those whose income declines this year by a significant amount. Those people will have to figure out a way to pay back the huge sum of $300. As I said before, you've got nine months. Start saving (or simply put the damn check in the bank...)...

Stop all the political crap, please, and spend your $300 if you're not in the aforementioned group...

Sheesh...
posted by fooljay at 8:42 PM on July 27, 2001


To jumpstart the economy, the rebate was an ingenious move. The point of the tax cut as relief was to promote spending. But tax cuts to very little to jump starting the economy, because it does little to encourage people to spend. Yes they have more money, but they are equally encouraged to save the money until conditions improve.

But a three hundred dollar check changes that. You're more likely to spend that money rather than save it. It's bonus money that's just begging to be spent. It's hard to see as part of your income in that form.
posted by witchycal at 9:03 PM on July 27, 2001


Remeber, its the first $6000 tax rate that is changing. So unless you end up making less then $6000 for 2001, you will be fine. Basically your withholding is now too much for what you will owe. Because withholding was taken out for the old tax rate, and the new one is effect, they are basically just balancing the withholding books. This only effects your first $6000 in income.

If you make less than $6000 a year, you have more problems than just taxes, I would venture to say.
posted by benjh at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2001


The only people who will be screwed are those whose income declines this year by a significant amount.

<sarcasm>Ah, well, now that you've explained it, that's totally fair.</sarcasm>

Stop all the political crap, please

You're missing the point. This is all about political crap. It isn't about the money per se at all. It's about the Republican administration trying to misdirect your attention away from what a shitty job they're doing with a $300 dollar check. Whether the $300 comes from withholding you've already payed or is added to your taxes or deducted from your refund or whatever is irrelevant, the point is it's just a card trick.
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2001


Of course it's a card trick. It's moving around money in a way that will make you pour three hundred dollars into a slowing economy.
posted by witchycal at 9:35 PM on July 27, 2001


maybe it'd be best if we used this $300 to buy weed.
posted by jcterminal at 9:56 PM on July 27, 2001


Incidentally, the concept of the money being poured back into a slowing economy becomes a little clearer when you realize that the total "refund" given out totals $40 billion... quite a chunk of change. (note: that number is anecdotal, heard them discussing it on NPR the other day, haven't checked it for accuracy...)
posted by bcwinters at 9:57 PM on July 27, 2001


maybe it'd be best if we used this $300 to buy weed.

Even better... just endorse the check over to NORML.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:42 PM on July 27, 2001


I don't want to speak to the political implications of the advance payment, but I just wanted to point out two things. If I am interpreting the last paragraph of the answer to Who Will Get An Advance Payment correctly, you don't have to pay back the government the difference if you didn't legally deserve all of the advance payment. So, for those who experience a decline in income, the advance payment might actually be extra money that they normally wouldn't have gotten. As for state taxes, as this shows, most states are making sure you don't need to pay extra taxes on the advance amount, even though they are legally entitled to it.

So, even though the advance payment is like a paycheck advance, it is a paycheck advance accompanied by a raise (the tax cut), so that you don't end up owing any additional money at all. Without the advance payment, most of us would have just seen our refund next April increase by $300. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to get $300, I'd rather get it now than later.

BTW, interesting fact uncovered by the second link. Montana's legislature only meets every other year. I figure there's probably not much to legislate in Montana, but still . . .

Please correct me if I have made any factual errors.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 11:16 PM on July 27, 2001


Ah, well, now that you've explained it, that's totally fair.

It is fair even if I were correct in my above description, but I am NOT.

From The Motley Fool:
What will happen to those people who had taxable income in 2000, but dropped off of the income radar screen in 2001? They likely received the full refund check, based on their 2000 income. Will they be forced to repay this refund to Uncle Sammy? The law says no. 
So: You're missing the point. This is all about political crap. It isn't about the money per se at all. It's about the Republican administration trying to misdirect your attention away from what a shitty job they're doing with a $300 dollar check.

Actually, if you think about it, it has very little to do with any "shitty job the Republicans are doing with your money" and more to do with the Economics 101 and political ideologies.

Republicans emphasize business over government. People are a better arbiter of what to do with their own money—buy, save, give away. That money will go to business or it will go to charity.

Democrats emphasize government over business. More money should be redistributed through the Government where it can be doled out to the appropriate places—social programs, infrastructure, etc.

The Republicans' are simply following their economic platform as were the Democrats before them. No evil. No mischief. Just a system of governement that's been around since before we were born.

Whether the $300 comes from withholding you've already payed or is added to your taxes or deducted from your refund or whatever is irrelevant, the point is it's just a card trick.

Fine, but that card trick allows me to control my own money sooner. I think that's the way it should be.

The whole thing that makes this seem weird is that it's retroactive, but that's what happens when you get a new administration after the tax year has already begun.
posted by fooljay at 11:32 PM on July 27, 2001


Damn, eatenbyagrue, you beat me...
posted by fooljay at 11:33 PM on July 27, 2001


Sorry fooljay. If it's any consolation, I think you explained it much more clearly than I did.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 11:48 PM on July 27, 2001


Wow, that would be a first... Corporal Obfucator out...
posted by fooljay at 12:04 AM on July 28, 2001


fooljay said: Republicans emphasize business over government. People are a better arbiter [...]

You're totally missing the point. The reason behind the "rebate" isn't to give you your money back sooner or let you manage it yourself, it's just a tactic to distract you. It seems to be working, too. Your argument basically boils down to, "Dude, it's $300! It's my money!" Yeah, it's your money, and you may very well be able to spend it better than the government can, but that's irrelevent, no matter how you calculate it. The point is that they're paying you off. They aren't trying to help you out. It's hush money. It's misdirection.

When election time comes, what are you going to remember? That the U.S. refused to sign the Kyoto climate treaty? That Bush exhumed the idiotic and hideously expensive Strategic Defense Initiative "missile shield" idea, thereby basically wiping his ass with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? That Bush is selling wildlife refuges to his oil industry cronies?

Or are you going to remember that Bush is the guy that sent you a check for $300?
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:14 AM on July 28, 2001


Another thing we're missing is the fact that Democrats came up with the idea for this money-now rebate, despite the fact that Bush is happily taking credit for it now. Joshua Marshall has a good recap of how this all came about.
posted by rcade at 5:10 AM on July 28, 2001


The whole thing that makes this seem weird is that it's retroactive, but that's what happens when you get a new administration after the tax year has already begun.

But it's only a little retroactive; it addresses your recent withholding for your upcoming tax bill, but it doesn't give back anything you paid in 2000.

Bush IS trying to give everyone the impression that it's a return of last year's money, though. This is a representative sample:

Finally, along with funding our priorities and paying down debt, my plan returns about one out of every four dollars of the surplus to the American taxpayers, who created the surplus in the first place.  A surplus in tax revenue, after all, means that taxpayers have been overcharged.  And usually when you've been overcharged, you expect to get something back.

Even though he doesn't explicitly say one way or the other, people assume that the $300 is coming out of all that money we were 'overcharged' last year, but we will get none of that money back.

And no Congresspeople or White House weasels seem interested in disabusing people of that notion. Bah.
posted by s.e.b. at 5:38 AM on July 28, 2001


it's funny to me that no one here seems to remember that initially, this bit of money was bush's promise to return money that belonged to the american people to to the people. remember? it was our bit of the surplus that he was returning to us. "the country's doing well, why shouldn't the people share in the bounty"?

then the economy slowed and the new spin was "an infusion of money to help the dwindling economy".

it's frightening how effective the bush spin machine has been....
posted by rebeccablood at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2001


Actually, Rebecca, I don't see anything to make those two goals mutually exclusive. From what I understand, Republican ideology has always held that reducing taxes does both; it returns the money to the people (ideological goal) stimulates the economy (practical goal). The Bush camp has not discarded the normative goal in favor of the practical goal; more likely, they simply switched their emphasis when the economy went south.

This kind of thing happens all of the time in politics, frankly.
posted by gd779 at 6:32 AM on July 28, 2001


So if the 2001 tax rates aren't actually being reduced, why did they just reduce my payroll deduction by over $30 a month?

Because the rates for upper tax brackets also dropped by one percentage point (much less dramatic than the 5 point drop for the bottom bracket).

The administration decided to implement the rate drop in two different ways. The bottom bracket (the drop from 15% to 10%) is dropped by still imposing 15% in April, but giving you $300 now. (Which you will have to pay back in April.) The upper brackets are dropped by reducing the rates immediately, so you will see the reduction in your withholding as well as in April when you do your final computations.

Yes it's confusing and yes everybody focuses on the part they like and ignores the part they don't like.
posted by raymondc at 8:35 AM on July 28, 2001


Ok, lemme get this straight...

Last paycheck, I got charged X amount less in taxes.

Last Year I was claimed as a dependant (I lived at home for 6+ months with Mommykins, even though I had a Full Time job that keeps me in the same tax bracket this year and last)

I was send the nice "You Get No Money, Goodbye!" letter due to I was a dependant.

As per the article, The tax tables will be changing to make up for these $300 checks...

What happens to me? I will now get $300 less in refund, even though I will not recieve a check. They based the list of no-check-getters on last years tax returns...

Taxes alway hurt my brain...Where's my accountant!
posted by stew560 at 9:03 AM on July 28, 2001


The point is that they're paying you off. They aren't trying to help you out. It's hush money. It's misdirection.

For that to be true, the Bush administration would have to believe that they've done something wrong. Do you have any evidence that this is the case?
posted by kindall at 9:05 AM on July 28, 2001


In fact thinking about it so me more, I'd go so far as to say that the Bush administration might well be proud of what they've done so far and spin the things Ryland mentioned as positives in the 2004 campaign advertising. I can almost hear it now:

"George W. Bush had the strength to stand up to the world's bullying and refuse to sign the Kyoto Accord, which would have restricted America's growth. George W. Bush led the way to develop new technology to keep the United States safe from nuclear attack from rogue nations. And George W. Bush answered the call of rising oil prices by opening the door to more domestic production of oil, reducing our dependence on foreign oil cartels. And George W. Bush provided real tax relief, spurring America's economy back into life. George W. Bush. Keeping America strong... for our children."
posted by kindall at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2001


Well no, kindall, I don't seem to be on the "affadavits of wrongdoing" mailing list the Republican party sends out to make sure the big contributors know what they're buying. :)
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:58 AM on July 28, 2001


Heh... your 'spin' comment reminds me of a story in The Onion last week: "Bush Vows To Remove Toxic Petroleum From National Parks"
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:03 AM on July 28, 2001


stew560, apparently, when you file next April, while the tax forms will show a 15% bottom tax bracket, there will be some sort of mechanism by which you can claim a tax credit of $300 (or however much it is for you) if you haven't received the advance payment.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:44 AM on July 28, 2001


You're totally missing the point. The reason behind the "rebate" isn't to give you your money back sooner or let you manage it yourself, it's just a tactic to distract you.

It is? Can you provide a link to some secret documents that say that? Seriously, this whole thread is kind of funny. Over the course of history, Rebublicans have lowered taxes and Democrats raised them. It's a theory of government.

I'm not missing your point. You're missing mine. It's all about perspective. Take for example, Microsoft, who is reviled on this board just as much as George Bush, if not more. Microsoft recently gave OEMs more freedom to customize the desktop, even going so far as to remove the IE icon. To Microsoft supporters, this was probably seen as a "positive move" which supports Microsoft's stated plan of cleaning up the desktop. Microsoft detractors on the other hand will say that this is Microsoft just trying to "pay off the DOJ" and misdirect attention away from its other evils deeds yada yada yada.

The flaw in your perspective, however, is that you isolate the practice solely to Bush. Lowering taxes have always been a fundamental Republican Party ideal. Does that make every Republican an illusionist?

It seems to be working, too. Your argument basically boils down to, "Dude, it's $300! It's my money!" Yeah, it's your money, and you may very well be able to spend it better than the government can, but that's irrelevent, no matter how you calculate it. The point is that they're paying you off. They aren't trying to help you out. It's hush money. It's misdirection.

It's really working on me. I can feel myself becoming more of a Republican than I have been for the past 31 years... I'm....being....sucked....in..... :-)

And what is misdirection? You make it sound like any good or popular measures Bush might take will only be an illusory cover for his evil deeds for he is the $Pawn 0ph 54TAN H1M$ELF!!!

Seriously, a politician is judged on his actions. He may be dumb as a brick, he may be a spolied brat, but I have to guess that just like every other U.S. president, he's doing what he thinks is best for the American people. You can disagree with him if you like, but this over the top, X-files stuff is a little ridiculous...

When election time comes, what are you going to remember? That the U.S. refused to sign the Kyoto climate treaty? That Bush exhumed the idiotic and hideously expensive Strategic Defense Initiative "missile shield" idea, thereby basically wiping his ass with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? That Bush is selling wildlife refuges to his oil industry cronies?
Or are you going to remember that Bush is the guy that sent you a check for $300?


How about all of them and pro-life, "family values" and a few other things I don't agree with, which is why I'm seriously considering voting Libertarian from now on.... Or do you think Libretarian's are evil miscreants as well, because they use all of that "greater personal freedom stuff" just because it makes people happy? Is it a misdirection too? I making your constituency happy a bad thing?

One more thing before I stop. Bush (and the Democrats as rcade mentioned) were planning before Bush got into office, so that kind of makes NMD, Kyoto and all of the other things you mentioned irrelevant.

As per the article, The tax tables will be changing to make up for these $300 checks...
What happens to me? I will now get $300 less in refund, even though I will not recieve a check. They based the list of no-check-getters on last years tax returns...


Read the Motley Fool link. Assuming that you're not a dependant this year, you'll realize the tax cut fully on your return. You won't be losing out, you just have to wait a bit longer for your money.
posted by fooljay at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2001


It's kind of paradoxical, because acts like this are usually associated with Keynesian "pump-priming": Keynes argued that the way to do that best was by running a counter-cyclical monetary policy. However, we're in a post-Keynesian era, where pump-priming is usually done supply-side, as put forward by Mundell. But as Forbes suggests, the tax-cutting strategy also has its pitfalls:

When deficits are relatively small, a looser fiscal stance will make everyone feel better and get the economic juices flowing. But this isn't a credible policy when it pushes deficits to unsustainable levels. At that point, more fiscal stimulation erodes confidence rather than increasing it. That's why it doesn't work.

Does it work in a time of revenue surplus? Possibly: though one might argue that it's not a question of "overcharging", but rather one of underspending, given that "social programme" has become another of those dirty phrases in the American political lexicon.

I'm not enough of an economist to be able to grok the effects of the "have $300" policy, but what it undoubtedly does is bring forward an expansion of money supply nine months, and not necessarily in a useful way. My favourite bearish analyst suggests that the US is headed for the equivalent of Japan's last decade, but without the massive savings pool to sustain people through the lean years. And that's not pretty.
posted by holgate at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2001


though one might argue that it's not a question of "overcharging", but rather one of underspending

And therein lies the crux of the difference between economic ideologies of Republican and Democrats... Well stated.
posted by fooljay at 2:50 PM on July 28, 2001


Or, one might argue that Bush is overspending and undercharging, since his entire tax plan was (supposedly) based on a surplus that may end up not existing, and since the House seems intent on playing against him instead of with him.
posted by Ptrin at 3:21 PM on July 28, 2001


Hmm, sounds like a Reagan strategy.... :-)
posted by fooljay at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2001


Well, fooljay, it goes a bit deeper than that: for instance, one of the reasons for the disquiet among Labour voters is that most government departments underspent their Treasury allocations over the four years of the last Parliament. And given that Gordon Brown had already squeezed down those allocations in an attempt to pay off the national debt, that suggests bureaucratic paralysis in a government elected to be activist. (The Parable of the Talents comes to mind.)

So it's not an ideological zero-sum -- that the right's overcharging is by necessity the left's underspending. In fact, it points to the paradox of economic policy in the UK and US since 1980: that it's invariably been the right-wing governments that ran deficits, while the left-wing ones spent more time clawing them back than spending on the programmes they were elected to enact.

There's a time to spend, and a time to save: that applies to governments as well as individuals. More often than not in the last 20 years, though, and with some irony, a change of government seems to occur when the economic climate is directly contrary to that you'd expect the incoming party to inherit. Which is why Bush's purported trimming of governmental excess is actually a bit of speculative pump-priming in the hope that it'll offset future woes.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on July 28, 2001


president g.w. bush (from above)

A surplus in tax revenue, after all, means that taxpayers have been overcharged.  And usually when you've been overcharged, you expect to get something back.


there are legitimate arguments for tax reduction that the republican party can advance. but i hear the overcharge argument used, again and again, by those citizens that support g. w. bush's policies and by the politicians themselves.

it's silly. it's beyond silly, actually. it's asinine.

just pay your $20,078.57 undercharge, and quit whining.
posted by lescour at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2001


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