, 23 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Lots (LOTS) of responses to my #TaxDay story with @jimtankersley today. A few thoughts to follow.
Responses mostly fell into one of 3 buckets:
1. You morons are wrong. I totally got a tax increase!
2. You liars in the media are the reason no one thinks they got a tax cut.
3. So what if I got a few bucks extra? The law was still terrible!
Going to take these in reverse order.
On #3: Stipulated! There were plenty of reasons to hate this law even if you got a cut. The cuts were small for most Americans. They were skewed toward corps/the rich. They added hundreds of billions to the deficit. The individual benefits expire in a few years. Etc etc.
(Note: There are also things you might like in the law. I'm not taking a position here. My point is there are intellectually honest reasons to dislike this law, no matter how it affected you personally.)
On #2: Anytime there's a big gap between public perception and reality, I think we in the media need to do some soul-searching about whether we did enough to inform our audience.
I can't speak for other media, but here at the @nytimes, we were pretty consistent about telling people in tax stories that the TCJA cut taxes for most people.
We created a tax calculator that let people see how the bill would affect them. @jimtankersley and I repeatedly pointed out the perception-reality disconnect.
But we also wrote a LOT of stories about the SALT cap (among other provisions). Those stories were legitimate and (usually) included the appropriate caveats. Still, taken together, I wonder if they could have given the impression that there were more net losers than there were.
And it's not lost on me that one group of net losers -- certain upper-middle-class-to-affluent residents of high-tax states -- includes a lot of journalists (and also think tank types, PR types, etc).
To be clear, I am *not* suggesting explicit bias here. But it's possible that colored reporters'/editors' perceptions of how common tax increases were, and that in turn affected the mix of stories we did.
(Again, I think the stories themselves were generally accurate and balanced. And there are good reasons for issues like SALT to get a lot of coverage in outlets with a large readership in high-tax areas. So these questions aren't simple.)
Lastly, re: #1: "I got a tax increase." It's possible! About 6% of Americans got an increase in 2018, per @taxpolicycenter. The share is higher among upper-middle-income residents of high-tax states, although -- and this is key -- it's still not a majority *anywhere.*
Still, I suspect a lot of people who think they got a tax increase are mistaken. Many of the tweets I'm getting talk about lower refunds. But just because your refund was smaller (or even if you owed money), that doesn't mean you got a tax increase.
More on the refund issue, and how it's playing out in public opinion, here: nytimes.com/2019/03/21/bus…
Lots of other comments focusing on loss of specific deductions (esp. SALT). As @Neil_Irwin noted earlier, just because you lost one deduction does not mean your overall taxes went up.
I'm not going to get back into the SALT debate in this thread. More discussion of it in our story: nytimes.com/2019/04/14/bus…
And also in my thread from yesterday:
How can you tell if you got a tax cut? The easiest (tho imperfect) way is to calculate your effective tax rate this year and last.
Divide your total tax (Line 15 on your 1040) by your total income (Line 6). Do the same for last year (though 1040 changed, so line nos are different). Assuming your situation didn't change much from last year, this should give you a rough sense of how the law affected you.
If your situation did change (change in income, marital status, home ownership, kids, etc), then you need to use a calculator like this one from @taxpolicycenter.
Don't trust them? Plenty of other groups have their own versions. They should give you more or less the same answer.
Here's one from @taxfoundation: taxfoundation.org/tax-calculator/
Of course, if the reaction to our story has taught me anything, it's that I shouldn't expect any of this to convince you. Views of this law are very set.
To whit: Based on our @SurveyMonkey data, we can look at what factors predict whether someone will believe they got a tax cut. *By far* the strongest predictor is partisanship/Trump approval. More than income, more than living in a high-tax state, etc.
And with that, I'm done with #TaxDay. Many happy returns. ::ducks::
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