Tax season can be a confusing time for many Americans, who are left to fill out complicated forms, decipher deductions, and try to make sense of a far-too-confusing tax system. This confusion is likely to be even worse this year, because this is the first tax filing season during which taxpayers will have to navigate the new requirements and consequences of the tax bill that was passed in December 2017. I’ve already heard from many people across Maine with questions and concerns, so I’d like to take a moment to update you on the details I’ve been receiving — both directly from Maine people and through media reports — on the overall landscape of this year’s tax season.

We won’t fully know the impacts of the tax bill until the filing season finishes, but we can see early signs of confusion and frustration. The last available data, from late February, showed that the average tax refund has increased by 1.3 percent over last year — across the board, nationally. But even in light of these numbers, there have been concerning reports in recent weeks that many Americans are receiving smaller tax refunds than usual — or, in some cases, owing unexpected money to the Internal Revenue Service.

For those who bear the brunt of this unwelcome surprise, the impact can be severe. Many taxpayers — including some from Maine who have reached out to me directly after being surprised by the amount (or absence) of their refund — have come to rely on an annual tax-refund check to deal with yearly expenses such as paying down debt or obtaining medical care that they’ve been putting off. It’s important to note that these residents have been filing their taxes in the same way as they always have — claiming the same number of allowances, with the goal of contributing their share and, come tax season, receiving a refund check they can put toward personal priorities. Without these anticipated funds, these necessary expenses become even more challenging to manage. Even worse, this struggle isn’t their fault, as many taxpayers who now owe money are in this hole because they were not alerted to changes in the withholding system. That’s why last month, I joined 39 other Senators to urge the IRS to seek tax relief for those who are now facing penalties as a result of these unclear changes.

Now, to be clear: I do not know with certainty how this new system will affect you on an individual level, and I hope that you receive good news after you file. But I do know that at the same time I am hearing from Maine people who have serious concerns about how the new law is impacting them, there have also been extensive reports about the benefits being seen by large corporations. In the aftermath of the tax bill’s passage, we’ve seen corporations announce $1.1 trillion in corporate stock buybacks, which serve to enrich already wealthy executives; meanwhile, the promised wage growth for American workers has not yet occurred. Which leads me to the question: did the American people really want tax reform to line the pockets of our most fortunate citizens?

When I voted against the tax bill in December 2017, I did so for several reasons. Among them:

• The legislation was rushed through Congress, without time for adequate hearings, study, or bipartisan debate;

• The impacts seemed to be slanted towards the wealthy rather than the working American families who need real relief;

• The unfunded tax cuts wouldn’t actually reduce taxes, just shift them to our children and grandchildren.

After passage, I was hopeful that I was wrong in my assessment, because it would mean that the American people were better off, and I still hope to be proven wrong — but as we hear these concerning tales of success for corporations and confusion for everyday Americans, I worry that we are watching my fears unfolding right before our eyes. I’m particularly saddened because there was a better way. I, like many of my colleagues, was ready to come to the table and work with Senate leadership to craft serious, effective tax reform legislation that would deliver real relief for American taxpayers. Instead, we have a bill that is disproportionately helping the wealthy on the backs of working Americans and future generations.

In the face of this uncertainty, I hope that the tax bill will affect you positively rather than negatively — but if you need assistance navigating the new system, help is available. The best option for you is to reach out to your local Taxpayer Advocate at 480-6094, or to visit www.irs.gov/advocate/local-taxpayer-advocate and then scroll to “Maine” on the webpage. I’ll keep pushing in every way I can to provide relief to Maine’s working families now and in years to come.