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22 May 2011

Slothful IRS Reduces Consequences of Exceeding Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has told us that the government has a few tricks it can use so that even though the government debt exceeds the debt limit, the government will not have to shut down until early August.  One major reason is not discussed.

The IRS is running late this year on refunding excess taxes paid.  Part of the reason for this is that Congress and Obama did not manage to work out an agreement and sign it into law to prevent a drastic raise in taxes until 17 December of 2010.  In addition to changes that affected future payroll withholdings, some changes required retroactive changes to 2010 tax forms, which delayed the start of filing for many people.  Among these,
  • Taxpayers were allowed to continue choosing to either deduct state income taxes or the state sales tax.  This affected the 50 million filers who itemize deductions.
  • A change was made in who was affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT, which also affected those who itemize deductions.
  • Teachers who claim the $250 deduction for money spent on classroom supplies which had been scheduled to expire.
  • Qualified college expenses could allow a deduction of up to $4,000 which had been scheduled to expire.
Consequently, the IRS was going to be jammed more than usual due to these late changes.  There is, however, another problem the IRS has on top of this one.

The first Democrat-controlled Congress of four years ago decided that the IRS should provide loans to first-time home buyers at no interest.  A million home buyers took advantage of this program, so that IRS computers are taking in monthly mortgage payments in addition to handling the usual business payroll tax deposits and trying to get the many refunds out to taxpayers.  The IRS is running seriously behind.  This is the normal problem of poor central planning that we have come to understand is central to big government.

But, government has also earned our cynicism.  Could it be that this is also a good excuse for getting refunds, which averaged $2,324 in 2007, back to taxpayers late?  During the period between now and August, the longer it takes for the IRS to refund excess tax payments, the easier it will be to avoid the consequences of having exceeded the debt limit.  The delays on many tax refunds are expected to be 4 months.  Four months from 18 April will be 18 August.  This is very convenient for our overspending government.  Is it possible the IRS and its tax-dodging leader, the Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, are taking advantage to the fullest of such excuses?  This would help to allow the administration to continue its free-spending ways unabated until August.

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