For Walter and Teresa Joiner of Adelphi, who earned $29,916 in 1980, the difference between the Democratic and Republican tax packages scheduled for a vote in the House today is that under the Democratic plan, the couple would pay $2,415 in taxes -- $270 less in 1982 than under the Republican one.
But Joiner, a salesman for Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., and his wife, a Montgomery County school teacher, are not rushing out to commit themselves to any long-term debts.Simply put, the Joiners say they will not believe that Congress has actually given them a tax break until next year's Form 1040 arrives.
"What they tell you now, that doesn't really mean much," said Joiner, 30. "They want to do enough publicity to get the bill through and then they'll start sticking it to you later."
The Joiners are one of three families, all with different incomes, interviewed by The Post yesterday who said the proposed tax cuts are too little, too late. They are skeptical that Congress will actually approve tax package that will make any meaningful dent in their tax bill. All, regardless of their incomes, seemed to believe the vocal Democratic message that President Reagan's tax plan will help those earning more than $50,000 much more than middle income and poor Americans.
George Turner has operated the B and B Beauty Supply Co. in Washington for 31 years, netting his family about $45,000 last year. Turner woud save $796 in taxes next year under the Republican plan on 1981 income and $1,139 under the Democratic plan. But the life-long Democrat, like the Joiners, isn't holding his breath waiting for Congress. He, too, is skeptical of whether Congress really will deliver any meaningful tax relief.
The most biting criticism, however, comes from David and Mildred Ward who live in Alexandria with their five children. A 42-year-old floor refinisher, Ward earned $14,500 last year. The Democratic plan would net the Wards an extra $216 next year compared to the Republicans' $151. That is less, they said, than what they spend each month for groceries.
"It's like reading a Racing Form," says Turner. "You have to judge them on what they have done before and the company they have kept before and that's why I'm in favor of the Democratic plan even though I might [in 1983 and 1984] be better off under the Reagan one."
The Republicans, Turner said, "don't have too good a past record with minorities or blacks. I just don't trust Reagan."
Deciding which tax package is better is difficult, the Joiners say, even after reading several stories about the tax proposals.
"If people are financial analysts or economists, perhaps they can tell, but the average person probably can't," says Teresa Joiner, a 29-year-old first and second grade school teacher. "A lot of people don't pay much attention, they just say we'll wait and see in April."
Last year, the Joiners paid $3,198 in federal taxes on the $12,463 which Walter earned and Teresa's $17,453 salary. They claimed $4,703 in deductions, mostly business expenses for Walter.
"Being in the middle income tax bracket, I don't know which one is aimed toward who. As long as it cuts taxes, fine. I don't care who cuts them," Joiner said. "I just want them cut."
Under the tax proposal written by the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, the couple would pay $2,415 in 1982 federal taxes if their income and deductions remained the same. That's $783 less than last year. Under the Reagan plan they would pay $2,685 or $513 less in taxes in 1982.
By 1984, if the Joiners' income remains the same, they would pay $2,124 in taxes under the Reagan plan or $1,074 less in taxes than they paid last year. They would pay $1,996 [$1,202 less than last year] in federal taxes under the Democratic plan if the economy had improved enough for a so-called trigger tax cut. If the economy worsens, however, the Joiners would pay $2,194 in taxes -- $1,004 less than they paid last year -- under the Democratic plan.
The tax rates are due to different deductions and how quickly they are phased-in. The Joiners qualify, for example, for married penalty tax relief. Under the Democratic plan, the spouse who earns the least amount gets an automatic 10 percent deduction each year. Under the Reagan plan, the spouse earning the smaller income gets a 5 percent tax break in 1982 and 10 percent each of the following years.
Last year, the Joiners were able to deduct $233 in child care for their 3-year-old daughter, Alexis. Under the Democratic plan, they would be able to claim $303 in 1982 for child care, an increase of $70. The Reagan plan does not include an increase for child care.
For Turner, whose beauty company specializes in black beauty products sold at three outlets, the two tax cuts offer even bigger tax savings. Because of existing deductions available to business owners, Turner said he paid roughly $2,800 in personal taxes in 1980. Under the Reagan plan, Turner would save about $796 in taxes in 1982 and $1,697 in 1984. Under the Democratic plan, he would save $1,139 in 1982 and either $1,806 or $1,552 (depending upon the trigger tax cut) in 1984.
The smallest tax cut would go to the Wards who earned $14,500 last year. Ward was not sure how much tax he paid last year. Congressional tax officials estimate, however, that Ward would save $151 next year under the Reagan plan and $281 in 1984. Under the Democratic plan, he would save $216 in taxes in 1982 and either $379 or $309 in 1984.
The Wards said a $151-tax cut in 1982 will not help them as much as federal programs that they believe Reagan will cut. All but one of the Ward's five children receive free hot lunches at their school.
The couple said they would rather have their children continue receiving hot lunches than to get a tax break. They also are afraid Reagan will gut a local federal job training program financed under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. While neither one of them is currently enrolled in a training program, the idea that it might be discontinued disturbs them, they said. Knowing it is available offers them the dream that someday they may be able to get a better job, the Wards said.
Despite Reagan's national television plea Monday night for passage of his tax plan, each of the couples said they think the president's tax package is geared for the wealthy.
"From what I understand, if you're making $50,000 or more it will be in your favor, if not, it won't," said Teresa Joiner. CAPTION: Picture 1, Teresa and Walter Joiner review tax forms. Democratic plan would benefit them. By Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, George Turner made $45,000 last year and would save more under the Democratic plan. He doubts relief will be meaningful. By Doug Menuez -- The Washington Post