Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 20, 2013

Editorial: Taxpayers feel the pain


— When you limp out of your tax guy’s office this year — or collapse at the kitchen table after doing your own taxes — remember to thank Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOPdominated Legislature for your higher tax bill.

In 2011, just a few months after Snyder was elected, Republican lawmakers rammed through a $1.6 billion tax cut for Michigan businesses, paid for almost entirely by $1.4 billion in added taxes on average Michigan taxpayers.

The catch is that most of us won’t feel the pinch until we do our 2012 state taxes, which are due April 15 — nearly two years after the change and five months after the 2012 elections.

Most Michigan filers are going to feel the pain, and soon.

The list of changes is long and expensive.

Homeowners and renters alike used to qualify for a credit if their household income was less than $82,650 a year; that’s now down to $50,000 but only if their home’s taxable value is less than $135,000. That will affect about 400,000 of us.

The number of deductions — the few breaks average taxpayers got — that have been eliminated is long. Gone are the child deduction, special exemptions for seniors and those getting at least half their income from unemployment checks; a refundable credit for low-income workers was reduced, impacting about 783,000 returns.

Also gone are credits for city income taxes, college tuition, adoptions and donations to universities, public radio and TV stations, food banks and homeless shelters.

Tax experts say about half of all Michigan residents who file taxes will see a “considerable” tax increase.

“There’s quite a bit of surprise, quite a level of frustration with the increases,” said Terry Conley, a tax partner at Grant Thornton in Southfield. “There’s going to be some unhappy campers out there.”

While they were at it, the GOP-dominated Legislature also put the income tax rate at 4.25 percent; it was supposed to drop to 3.9 percent in 2015 under a previous law.

Retirees took an additional hit last year, when pensions and 401(k) incomes were taxed.

A lot of us will feel the pain. A single parent with two children and $22,000 in annual income will get a refund of about $80, compared to $444. A married couple with two kids and an income of about $55,000 will pay $739 more in income tax. A married couple with two kids and and an income of $250,000 will pay an additional $989.

So $1.6 billion in breaks and $1.4 billion in new tax liability later, the question is simple: Where are the jobs?