The tax refund check may or may not be in the mail

Sunday, August 26, 2001

Tax cut! Tax cut! Tax cut! Be looking for that tax rebate check in your mailbox any day now! It has been the rallying cry for the Bush administration during this sultry summer, tax relief for everyone - rebate checks in the mail, complete with a vice presidential photo op in Kansas City last week. We've been swamped by retailers advertising just the thing to spend your rebate check on, they'll even cash the check in some cases. But maybe you got a mailing from the IRS over the weekend. Opening it, you expected to learn that your check - that much-hyped $300 to $600 mid-summer reprieve - was indeed soon to be in the mail. But that wasn't what the notice said. Nope. You were one of those who received a refund earlier this year on your regular federal income tax filing, the form letter said, and you won't be getting anything - nada, zip, zilch - from Uncle Sam this summer. What this means is that you, as Joe Blue Collar, worked 40-plus hours a week at least 50 weeks a year over the past year and as a conscientious citizen you tried to ensure enough federal taxes were deducted from your paycheck that April 15 didn't bring an unpleasant surprise bill for you, your wife and kids. You actually gave Uncle Sam his money earlier than the ultimate April 15 deadline, and what do you get in July? Nothing! If you had taken the maximum possible on each paycheck, held out your contribution to the government until forced to pony up, the brain trust in Washington, D.C., would now be rewarding you with a bonus check. Does this make sense to anyone else? This is "tax relief" lip service at its worst, and anything but the kind of "compassionate conservatism" that assists all socioeconomic levels. Where were the warning flags until notices were in the mail? Where were the leaders of either party in telling the public that those who received refunds earlier in the year wouldn't be qualified to receive a summer refund? If anything, maybe this latest hype-and-switch tactic will remind us all to be more wary of promises that politicians make about tax relief.