By Robert A. Vella
Wake-up folks, it’s Monday! Did you think the news would just go away?
Tax refunds hit GOP
The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.
The GAO pointed to an IRS estimate that about 4.6 million fewer filers would receive refunds this tax filing season. Another 4.6 million filers were likely to owe money who had not had that experience in the past.
Many families received a tax cut, but their refunds are smaller this year because the IRS made major changes to the “withholding tables” — the amount the federal government recommends taking out of your paycheck for federal income taxes — in the new tax law.
The IRS encouraged Americans to review their withholding level last year, but few did. About 75 percent of filers received refunds in recent years. Many Americans appear to like getting a refund because they feel that if they received an extra $20 to $40 a week, they would spend it. But when they get a one-time refund of $1,000 to $2,000, they put it toward paying off credit card debt, paying down a mortgage or saving for retirement.
The refund situation marks the latest potential trouble for Republicans over their tax bill. They argued it would be a political victory, but it has consistently polled poorly.
In New Jersey, Prugh appeared to be hit by both factors affecting refunds this year: His overall tax bill is higher, and his withholding looks to be a little lower. His family was affected by the new law’s $10,000 cap on state and local taxes (i.e. property taxes and state and local income taxes). He said in the past he normally deducted about twice that amount. He also was hurt by the elimination of the option to deduct mileage for work. The higher standard deduction under the new law did not counterbalance losing other deductions.
Mueller investigation focus
WASHINGTON — Of the few hints to emerge from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about evidence of possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, one of the most tantalizing surfaced almost in passing in a Washington courtroom last week.
Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
Denver teachers go on strike
In Denver, the main sticking points in the talks over a contract governing an incentive pay system are lowering bonuses to put more money in teachers’ base pay and how to allow teachers to advance in pay based on education and training, the norm in most school districts.
The union pushed for lower bonuses for high-poverty and high-priority schools to free up more money for overall teacher pay and criticized the district for spending too much money on administration. However, the district sees those particular bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.
Some teachers argue that spending money on smaller class sizes and adding support staff, like counselors, is the best way to help disadvantaged students learn and make them good schools for teachers to work in.