Shutdown looms as border talks break down over immigration enforcement
Dems call for limiting number of unauthorized migrants U.S. can detain
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.