It’s tax season which means we must endure another round of blaming Americans because they like refund checks.
The theme is embedded in the Washington Post’s story about people reacting to getting smaller refunds this year. Under the tax reform law, the refund was actually sprinkled through a year’s paychecks, leaving not quite as much to be returned.
“Getting a tax refund means that you gave the government an interest-free loan because you overpaid your taxes,” said Nicole Kaeding, director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation.
“It’s a mystery why taxpayers seem to be comfortable — and even happy — with getting refund checks,” said Joseph Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute.
It’s one of the few areas of agreement between conservatives and liberals apparently.
But it shouldn’t be a mystery why people love refund checks. It’s money they haven’t spent, unlike the increase they got in their paychecks. And, sure, it was an interest free loan. But that’s also pretty much what you’re giving to your back when you give it to your financial institution so it can make money while paying you almost nothing in interest.
The average tax refund check in Minnesota is about $2,450, according to Business Insider.
Do the math with this calculator. Assuming a .10 percent interest rate in a savings account — as featured by one of the most prominent credit unions in the Twin Cities at the moment — you’d have $1.50 at the end of the year if you’d adjusted your tax withholding to prevent the “no interest loan” to the federal government.
Of course, you could also have invested that money, in which case this year you’d have about 5 percent less, given the negative return overall in the stock market.
So it really shouldn’t be that hard to understand why people like having a big check instead of an extra $1.50 burning a hole in their pocket. But soldier on with the admonitions, we must.
The IRS says the average refund so far this year is about 8 percent lower than a year ago.