Well, it’s official. the IRS has delayed the opening of tax season by 8 days from 1/22 to 1/30 due to the late fiscal cliff deal. I don’t know about broader economic effects from the 8 day delay, but if nothing else, this will likely give us a one week delay in the debt limit saga. Now…for the record…February is just about the worst month you could pick to have a debt limit fight…or best I suppose depending on which side you are on, since tax refunds make it the absolute worst month of the year.
For a few weeks now, my needle on the “Debt Limit Cushion” has barely budged…pointing to 2/1 as the imminent default date…maybe a few days later. Treasury, on the other hand came out and said 2/15. Last year, between 2/2 and 2/15, the government ran a $141B deficit…I just couldn’t understand how we were that far off….but they likely knew about the delay far in advance…heck maybe they even encouraged the delay for extra time. In any case, I can buy 2/15 now…+/- 3 days.
From a monthly deficit perspective, I’m not quite sure how to model this. After all, I almost never have the tax documents I need to file until early Feb. anyway. So if I file the same time I always do, will processing time be the same? Is there excess capacity to process claims, or is there a queue…and I will be pushed back 8 days due to the delay? Since 99% of everything is automated, I wouldn’t really expect a full 8 day delay, but this is our government, so why wouldn’t it be?
The January effect is a bit more certain. Those early filers received about $7B of refunds in late Jan-2012….we can probably expect most of that to get pushed into Feb., lets just say $5B. Not much in the big picture.
February could go either way. In 2012, $129B of refunds went out in Feb., $60B in the last 8 days. If there is a linear delay….expect a material change in February. If the delay is not linear, and the IRS has the capacity to process most of the delayed returns in early Feb, there could be little to no change. All that is left to do now is sit back and watch….and of course hope Treasury even has the cash to pay us: Increase Debt Limit or Tax Refunds Will Not Go Out
The US Daily Deficit for 1/9/2013 was $10B primarily due to $11.5B of social security payments made yesterday. Social Security payments of around $58B per month go out in four monthly batches. The first goes out on the third of the month…usually about $25B. The next three batches go out on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Wednesday’s of the month and are around $11B each. This timing issue makes comparing year on year numbers throughout the month a little tricky. For example…in 2012, the second Wednesday of the month was 1/11, compared to 1/9 this year. Looking at the charts below, you can see that January 2013 outlays are a full $18B ahead of 2012 through 9 days, which is a pretty big increase. However, around $10B of that is due to SS timing. Revenue continues to pace ahead of 2012 and cost is a bit ahead, even after adjusting some for timing. All in all, through 9 days everything is looking pretty much in line with last year with increased revenues being offset by increased cost.
I don’t expect a lot of excitement for the remainder of the month deficit wise, but there will be a large surplus….maybe next Tuesday. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it is related to income tax witholding…wild guess is that for some entities, taxes withheld from paychecks are sent in on a specific date a few weeks after a quarter closes?? Whatever it is, expect a spike in revenues on that day of around $15-20B.
The “Debt Limit Cushion” is at $47.4B, and shrinking roughly at the expected pace. Using last year as a guide, we only get to 2/3, not 2/15 like the last projection I saw…I will reiterate that I do not have enough data to accurately model “Extrordinary Measures” but last year, the cash deficit between 2/1 and 2/15 was $174B. Need I point out that we currently have $47B in hand, and three weeks left in January? I will continue to keep my eye out though….what I expect to see is a substantial reduction in imaginary “Intragovernmental” debt, currently at 4.856T, offset entirely by an increase in external debt exchanged for cash. Effectively what they would do is push that debt off balance sheet, ignore it, and then issue new debt for cash, technically staying under the limit. Just a little bit shady, but nothing in comparison to the “Trillion Dollar Coin”…don’t get me started.
I was watching “Meet The Press” yesterday and during David Gregory’s interview of Mitch McConnell, Gregory was hounding McConnell on whether or not he would use the debt limit as a bargaining tool over the next month. Fair enough, but one thing he kept repeating kept grating against my skull. He kept implying that the reason the US rating was downgraded after the last round was simply because the fight happened in the first place. This is ridiculous. The debt was downgraded because we as a nation have a negative cash flow of about $100B per month and no viable plan to even marginally address this problem. Gregory kept implying that if only Republicans had not made the debt limit an issue, our credit rating wouldn’t have been downgraded. Financial ignorance is nothing new, and since McConnel didn’t call him on it, it’s a pretty safe assumption they are in the same boat. Looking at the facts, it’s a wonder US debt isn’t rated as Junk.
Full Disclosure….a few years back I liquidated about $1k of savings bonds my kids had received from their grandparents for college and purchased silver dollars. I have no regrets.
Sorry for the delay on this one…It took a lot longer to get through the editing process at Seeking Alpha than I expected. Here’s the link.
It’s worth the trouble to get these published at SA first because it it pushes the article, and this site out to a far wider audience that it would get here alone. Also, I get paid per page view, which let’s be honest, isn’t much, but I won’t be sending it back. So click on over and tell all your friends about it!!