Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tax refund holding to be expected

I'll be honest. Sometimes I kind of snap to judgment.

After having a while to think about things, though, sometimes that snap judgment turns out to have been wrong.

Last week, I ran across a story about New York State not sending out refund checks until June in order to temporarily fill a budget gap. Governor Paterson had made the decree and State Senator Bill Stachowski (is he really still a state senator) announced his disapproval of keeping the people's money from them.

I agreed with Stachowski.

Then it occurred to me: If I'm agreeing with THAT guy, something must be wrong. Let me rethink this.

Well, as it turns out, I changed my mind. I'm actually totally okay with the state keeping our income tax returns until June. Or October for all I care, actually.

Now, first things first. Either the original story failed to mention – or I failed to hear – that this would only be for people filing their tax returns after March 1. So anyone who has already filed a return should still get your refund back in a timely manner. And anyone who files by the end of the week will also get your refund back in a timely manner.

In other words, if you haven't procrastinated, neither will the state. And on top of that, if you get off your dupa and file your return by Sunday, you will get your money back in a few weeks. Just like normal. And if you procrastinated and can't get off your dupa … well, who am I to feel bad for you.

But wait, that's not all. There's a far greater and more compelling reason for me to actually like the idea of the state keeping our tax returns.

Yes, as Senator Stachowski states, it's your money and the state is keeping it as though it were an interest-free loan. But … you asked them to borrow it.

Yes. You did.

Okay, maybe this isn't specifically true of you, but a lot of people did. I'd hazard to bet that most people did, actually.

You see, at the beginning of each year … or any time you change jobs, you can ask your employer to change the amount of money that's withheld from your paycheck in state and federal taxes. Personally, I tend to ask my employers to withhold as little as possible so I get to keep more of my money on a weekly basis, therefore getting less (or no) refund the following spring. In other words, I don't want to give the government an interest free loan. I feel I can better manage my own money, thank you.

Some people, though, ask their employers to take out extra money to send to the state and the feds so they get a bigger refund. They could take $20 a week (or whatever) and set it aside in an interest bearing account at a local bank or credit union. But they're too lazy to do that. They'd rather have the government keep it – interest free – cause its easier to let the government take care of them than for them to take care of themselves.

Folks, if you're going to let the nanny state take care of you, you better be willing to deal with the side effects and repercussions that come from it. Sometimes you won't like the way they decide to take care of you. But if you've allowed yourself to become a pet, you better get used to the leash.

And in this case, the side effects – or leash as the analogy goes – is that the government has decided it needs this money a little longer more than you need it back. After all, it's already been allowed to keep your money interest free for 14 months. What's a few more?

Now some of you will think this column to be facetious, but I assure you, this is my true and honest, well thought out opinion. And if you think about it, maybe it'll become yours, too.