With Payroll Tax Back, Consumers Look to Refunds for Basic Needs
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Maybe you've heard the term "the law of unintended consequences?"
It's what happens unexpectedly after plans and processes are into place -- and it's usually not good news.
Take the 2% payroll tax cut enacted by Congress in 2011 and 2012 to spur consumer spending and kick-start a slumbering U.S. economy.
Well, 2011 and 2012 have come and gone, and the payroll tax is up again, and with it a noticeable decline in take-home pay for tens of millions of American workers.Officially, on Jan. 1 employee payroll taxes rose to 6.2% from 4.2%, leaving less money in consumers' pockets. Removing a tax cut that was mean to jumpstart economic growth may have the opposite effect when it's snatched away -- the "law of unintended consequences" part of the equation. Here's one way U.S. consumers are responding to having less cash in their pockets: A survey by the American Institute of CPAs and Harris Interactive says most tax refunds are going toward day-to-day expenses. The survey last month of 1,011 U.S. adults reveals that 43% of respondents who get a tax refund say the refund is "more important" this year than in years past. While 46% say they will stash their refund into savings, 37% say they will use it for those day-to-day expenses. The AICPA adds that 71% of study respondents say the payroll tax hike has had an impact on their finances, with 96% say they had to make some kind of adjustment in their personal finances after finding less cash in their paychecks this year.
Common cutbacks in Americans' household budgets after the tax hike include:
- 70% are putting less in their emergency funds.
- 51% are cutting back on cable television and Internet services (especially on digital entertainment).
- 45% are curbing their retirement savings.
- 17% are skipping payments for credit cards, a utility or even mortgage debt.
More and more Americans don't have that luxury these days. Instead of popping some money toward that retirement in Fort Myers, chances are the money is going into your food budget or fuel tank.
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