Shut­down looms as bor­der talks break down over im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment

Dems call for lim­it­ing num­ber of unau­tho­rized mi­grants U.S. can de­tain

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD 2 - BY ERICA WERNER AND DAMIAN PALETTA Richard Shelby,

WASHINGTON — The na­tion faces the real pos­si­bil­ity of an­other govern­ment shut­down Fri­day at mid­night, as bi­par­ti­san talks aimed at avert­ing that out­come broke down in a dis­pute over im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, law­mak­ers and aides said Sun­day.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bor­der wall de­mands, which pre­cip­i­tated the record-long 35-day shut­down that ended late last month, were a sec­ondary is­sue in the im­passe that de­vel­oped over the week­end, ac­cord­ing to law­mak­ers and aides in both par­ties.

In­stead, ne­go­ti­a­tions col­lapsed over Democrats’ in­sis­tence on lim­it­ing the num­ber of unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants who can be de­tained by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency. The break­down in talks made it un­likely that law­mak­ers will be able to fi­nal­ize an agree­ment on Mon­day, as they’d hope to do so it could pass the House and Sen­ate be­fore Fri­day night’s dead­line.

“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Shelby of Alabama, the lead Repub­li­can ne­go­tia­tor, said on “Fox News Sun­day.” “I’m not con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to get there.”

The stale­mate left the path for­ward to keep­ing the govern­ment open un­cer­tain. It was un­clear when or if for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions will re­sume.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment, along with State, Agri­cul­ture, Com­merce and a num­ber of other fed­eral agen­cies, are op­er­at­ing on a stop­gap spend­ing bill that Trump signed Jan. 25. There’s lit­tle ap­petite for an­other short-term fund­ing ex­ten­sion, but with­out some ac­tion by mid­night on Feb. 15, those agen­cies will run out of money and be­gin to shut down again.

The pres­i­dent, who is hold­ing a rally in El Paso, Texas, Mon­day night that’s likely to fo­cus on his

“I think the talks are stalled right now. I’m not con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to get there.”

ment shut­down caused some de­lays in pro­cess­ing fil­ings.

The early data can shift around a lot, tax ex­perts say, but there’s rea­son to be­lieve out­rage might grow as more Amer­i­cans com­plete their tax re­turns.

The Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice warned last sum­mer that the num­ber of tax fil­ers who re­ceive re­funds was likely to drop for the 2018 tax year and the num­ber of fil­ers who owe money would rise.

The GAO pointed to the IRS’ es­ti­mate that about 4.6 mil­lion fewer fil­ers would re­ceive re­funds this tax fil­ing sea­son. An­other 4.6 mil­lion fil­ers were likely to owe money who hadn’t had that ex­pe­ri­ence in the past.

There is no es­ti­mate for how many peo­ple will still re­ceive a re­fund but a smaller one than be­fore.

Many Amer­i­cans may con­fuse their small re­fund as a sign that they paid more in taxes as a re­sult of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Gen­er­ally, that is not true.

Ac­cord­ing to the Tax Pol­icy Cen­ter, 80 per­cent of fil­ers re­ceived a tax cut and about 5 per­cent wound up pay­ing more in fed­eral in­come taxes. The tax cuts showed up in fat­ter weekly or bi­weekly pay­checks for most Amer­i­cans, but few peo­ple no­ticed, ac­cord­ing to polling.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween taxes and your re­fund,” said Joseph Rosen­berg, a se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at the Tax Pol­icy Cen­ter. “Peo­ple gen­er­ally got a piece of their tax cut last year grad­u­ally in the form of lower with­hold­ing on their pay­checks.”

What hap­pened to many fam­i­lies is they re­ceived a tax cut, but their re­fund is smaller this year be­cause the IRS made ma­jor changes to the “with­hold­ing ta­bles” — the amount the fed­eral govern­ment recommends tak­ing out of your pay­check for fed­eral in­come taxes — be­cause of the new tax law.

The IRS was try­ing to set with­hold­ing lev­els so that more peo­ple would pay the cor­rect amount of taxes, mean­ing they nei­ther owe any­thing to the IRS at the end of the year nor re­ceive a re­fund.

“Getting a tax re­fund means that you gave the govern­ment an in­ter­est­free loan be­cause you over­paid your taxes,” said Ni­cole Kaed­ing, di­rec­tor of Fed­eral Projects at the Tax Foun­da­tion, a rightlean­ing think thank.

But many Amer­i­cans pre­fer re­funds, even though per­sonal fi­nance ex­perts say it’s not a wise idea to get one.

“It’s a mys­tery why tax­pay­ers seem to be com­fort­able — and even happy — with getting re­fund checks,” Rosen­berg said.

In re­cent years, about 75 per­cent of fil­ers re­ceived re­funds. Many Amer­i­cans ap­pear to like getting a re­fund be­cause they feel that if they re­ceived an ex­tra $20 to $40 a week, they would spend it. But when they get a one-time re­fund of $1,000 to $2,000, they put it to­ward pay­ing off credit card debt, pay­ing down a mort­gage or sav­ing for re­tire­ment.

“I am re­ally frus­trated with my re­fund this year. I was ex­pect­ing a good chunk of change. I was go­ing to put it to­ward buy­ing a car,” said Sal Ramirez, a 20-year-old pack­ag­ing de­signer in San Gabriel Val­ley, Calif. He earns $45,000 and said he re­ceived a re­fund last year of over $1,200 be­cause he puts zero with­hold­ing on his W-4 form at work.

Ramirez just got his re­fund from the IRS and it’s only $900 this year, likely be­cause of changes to the with­hold­ing ta­bles. He fig­ures he’ll need to save a few more months for the car.

The re­fund sit­u­a­tion marks the lat­est po­ten­tial trou­ble for Repub­li­cans over their tax bill. They ar­gued it would be a po­lit­i­cal win­ner, but it has con­sis­tently polled poorly.

Ramirez, who didn’t vote for Trump, couldn’t re­mem­ber whether his to­tal tax bill went up or down. He was just fo­cused on his re­fund.

And when he asked the woman who helps him with his taxes why his re­fund dropped, he said she told him, “the new tax law has re­ally messed up the mid­dle class.” He ar­gued the bill over­whelm­ingly helped the rich and gave lit­tle to the work­ing class (peo­ple in his in­come bracket saved $380, on av­er­age, on their tax bill, while the top 1 per­cent re­ceived an av­er­age tax cut of over $51,000).

In New Jersey, Prugh ap­peared to be af­fected by both fac­tors af­fect­ing re­funds this year: His over­all tax bill is higher, and his with­hold­ing looks a lit­tle lower. His fam­ily was af­fected by the new law’s $10,000 cap on state and lo­cal taxes (i.e. prop­erty taxes and state and lo­cal in­come taxes). He says that in the past, he nor­mally de­ducted about twice that amount.

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