MSNBC Anchor: 'A Whole Lot of People Are Paying Less in Taxes' But They're Still Angry

April 8, 2019

MSNBC reporters on Monday broke down the "psychology" of the anger some are feeling over owing money at tax time or getting a smaller refund, while acknowledging the majority of Americans are paying less in taxes after the cuts signed by President Donald Trump.

NBC News reporter Jacob Ward interviewed a Houston mother, Victoria Pearl-Wright, who said she got a $5,000 refund last year and typically gets a refund. She was so upset to see she owed the government money at tax time this year that she called her husband in tears, since they were counting on the influx of money to help them through her unpaid maternity leave.

Ward's report, which aired repeatedly on MSNBC Monday, included the detail that 59 percent of taxpayers reported getting smaller refunds so far this year. His story focused on changes to the law brought about by the 2017 tax reform, such as capping state and local tax deductions at $10,000 and no longer being able to claim unreimbursed, work-related expenses.

The law also doubled the standard deduction for single people and married couples, in addition to lowering individual rates.

MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi noted a "whole lot of people ... are paying less in taxes" but are still "mad about how this is turning out."

Ward recounted the Tax Policy Institute's conclusion that 80 percent of American taxpayers would pay less taxes as a result of the law, but "Twitter right now is exploding with people outraged that they're not going to get their refund."

"They held on to more of their money over the course of paycheck to paycheck, but then at the end of the year, they don't come up with the refund that they thought they were going to," he said. "Psychologically, people feel the loss so much more."

"If you gave 50 bucks a month extra, if you paid extra in taxes ... if you had that money as a refund, it's actually better to not have the government hold your money," Velshi said. "But people don't like that."

"That's right," Ward said. "As one person was saying to me today, I treat it as sort of an untouchable savings account that does the work for me. I don't get to touch it until tax refund time comes around, and then, boom, I've got this little infusion of money that I could never save up for otherwise. It's almost as if the inefficiency of the system has really been serving people's purposes."

Velshi pointed out how it is "inefficient" for the government to hold onto someone's money, particularly if a person wanted to save or invest it.

Ward's report included this February tweet from Donald Trump Jr., where he said a refund effectively meant a person had overpaid to the government throughout the year. Americans receiving tax refunds do not get interest on the money they overpaid.

"I don't often agree with Donald Trump Jr., but in this case, he's right about that," Ward said.

"This is really interesting, the psychology, it's hard to give something up—it's better for your brain not to give something up," Velshi said.