One of the main selling points of the Republican tax bill is that it would allegedly simplify the U.S. tax code, to the point we could theoretically file taxes "on a postcard."
Now that Congress passed the legislation and it will be signed by President Donald Trump, backers of the revamp are trying to convince average Americans that the highly unpopular bill is actually good for them (and not only for corporations and the ultra wealthy.)
During an interview with Fox & Friends on Thursday morning, first daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump discussed what she considers some of the benefits of the Republican tax bill — including the postcard bit.
"I'm really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the effect that this has, both on the process of filing out their taxes — the vast majority will be doing so on a single postcard — but [also] having experienced the relief that will be starting as early as February," she said.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill on January 3. Americans could start seeing the impact of some elements of the legislation in the first months of 2018 — though the changes won't apply to the 2017 tax returns you file in April.
Several Republican leaders have already touted the "filing taxes on a postcard" selling point. President Trump kissed a prop postcard made to look like a tax return in early November and during a televised appearance a few weeks ago, he bragged that Americans would be able to do taxes "on a single, little, beautiful sheet of paper." And on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan told NBC News: "We’re making it so simple that almost nine out of 10 taxpayers can do their taxes on a form like a postcard."
But is that true? Not exactly.
First of all, Americans already have the option of filing their taxes in a single-page form — the 14-line long 1040EZ return. Single and joint filers without dependents can file their taxes using this form under two conditions: They can't take most tax credits and they don't have more than $100,000 in taxable income.
But that doesn't mean everyone can take advantage of that form: In 2015, about 69% of households used the standard deduction and 30% used itemization.
In any case, you would need to figure out which type of deduction is more convenient for you by doing some record keeping and calculations. And for the postcard idea to work, millions of Americans would need to stop itemizing their deductions — such as charitable donations and mortgage interest, for example — and also forego additional tax credits like the child tax credit that Ivanka and Sen. Marco Rubio championed. But tax experts say that even if you could technically choose to go the shorter route, that doesn't mean it would be necessarily be in your best interest.
According to Reuters, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that about 24 million people will file taxes in 2018 through the 1040 form, the longest and most widely used one, while only about 4.6 million Americans will file their taxes using the 1040EZ form.