On Tax Day, President Donald Trump and a chorus of Republicans inflated the public's expectations that Tuesday's filing deadline marked the last time that figuring out taxes will drive Americans crazy.
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Vice President Mike Pence was among them, hailing a new era of simplicity for tax filers starting next year in a tweet that also repeated the myth that the tax cuts are the largest ever. Trump himself, in USA Today, declared: "This is the last year Americans will fill out outdated, complicated tax forms."
The talking point spread like wildfire.
"It's out with the old, and in with the new," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was more seasonal about it: "I still think of spring as the perfect time to say, out with the old, in with the new."
But everything old is new again, or will be, for many people when they sit down to do their taxes next year.
A look at some statements on the matter and the reality behind them:
PENCE, in tweets Tuesday: "Thanks to the historic TRUMP TAX CUTS, today marks the last time the American people will file taxes under a complicated & outdated tax system. Our Tax Cuts- the largest in American history- will save YOU money, increase opportunity & create more JOBS for American workers." And: "Next year will be simple."
TRUMP, in remarks Monday: "This is the last time you're going to fill out that long, complicated, horrible return. ... Tomorrow, last day. Very importantly, next year, it's going to be a simple — for the most part, one page. It may get a little bit bigger. But it will be simple and easy to do." — event in Hialeah, Florida.
HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: "This is the last time you will have to file your taxes under the old, outdated system." — Fox News.
REP. KEVIN BRADY of Texas, House Ways and Means Committee chairman: "On Tuesday, April 17, we Americans file our taxes — for the last time — under the old, broken tax code. Yes, for the last time. Goodbye and good riddance to that outdated, monstrosity of a tax code." — in USA Today.
TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: "It's going to be so much simpler for the vast many Americans who will take the standard deductions and will fill out the tax return on the actual postcard or the virtual postcard." — remarks in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Long, complicated returns are not going away. The Trump tax overhaul does not introduce a system permitting everyone to file a one-page or so form, or one that sustains a blanket promise of simplicity. The process will become easier for some people, not for others.
There's already a one-page form, the 1040EZ, which has been around for years. It can be used by people who have less than $100,000 in taxable income and no dependents and who meet other criteria. Trump previously had promised a card-size tax form but now appears to be backing off that claim by describing next year's form as "for the most part one page" but "may get a little bit bigger."
In fact, there's no sign that the IRS is planning new filing forms, card-size or otherwise, for the 2018 tax year.
Many taxpayers will indeed have an easier time filing because of the doubling of the standard deduction — the people Mnuchin refers to as the "vast many." But they'll still have to do legwork to figure out their taxable income and whether they qualify for the deduction or would be better off itemizing. They will also need to figure in the hit they could take from the capping of deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Tax-filing migraines are not vanishing.
As for Pence's claim that the tax cuts are the biggest in history, no.
They considerably trail Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cuts, Barack Obama's 2013 extension of George W. Bush's tax cuts, and more.
The estimated cost of Trump's package is $1.5 trillion over 10 years. In October, before the details were complete, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget assumed a higher value to the package — $2.2 trillion. Even that more significant plan ranked as only the eighth largest in history as a percentage of the GDP and the fourth largest by another measure — inflation-adjusted dollars.
Trump has persistently called his cuts the biggest in history. But, notably, he pulled that back a notch in his USA Today piece published Tuesday, even if his vice president didn't.
Trump wrote, more modestly: "I signed one of the largest tax cuts in history and the most sweeping tax reform in a generation."
Associated Press writer Holly Ramer contributed from Concord, New Hampshire.
Tax cut analysis: https://tinyurl.com/y8ktlfn3
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