THE OTHER SHOE ON TAX REFUND CHECKS
As I've discovered this year, parents of children attending college are forced to get a bit of a jump on the rest of America when it comes to filing income-tax returns. Because the universal application for college financial aid is due to the U.S. Department of Education by March 2, that date becomes the de facto filing deadline in households that include collegians. So over the weekend I got an early reminder of what millions of American parents are going to rediscover — or discover for the first time, if they weren't paying attention before — before April 15:
That check the IRS sent them last year was an advance, not a bonus.
To be sure, economists are crediting tax cuts and those tax-credit advance checks to parents as a key contributing factor to the healthy growth in the gross national product in the third and fourth quarters of last year. But it's not likely too many middle-class parents will remember that when they see that the dependent credits they can subtract from the bottom line of their total tax liability have now shrunk from $1,000 per child to $600.
It may take a little education on the part of President Bush and others in his administration to remind these parents that they got a $400 advance last year. Without such education, it may create a more receptive audience for those Democratic detractors who say the Bush tax cuts are too heavily weighted toward the rich.
It could be a challenge getting American taxpayers to listen to reason when they discover that the checks they send to the IRS in April are $400 higher than the ones they sent last year, or their refund check is for $400 less.