Feb 8 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, touted as major tax relief for individuals and corporations, is showing up in bigger paychecks and bonuses awarded to workers by companies whose tax bills are being slashed.
More than 200 companies, including Home Depot Inc, American Airlines Group Inc and AT&T Inc, are giving bonuses to at least 3 million U.S. workers, according to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform group.
Reuters has interviewed people around the country on the benefits they have received so far. While they welcome the additional income, the cuts have largely not changed individuals' longstanding views on Trump or the two major political parties.
Here are their views:
- TIM SMITH, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Working two jobs to make ends meet, 61-year-old Tim Smith was happy to get a $400 bonus as a part-time worker at Home Depot thanks to the U.S. tax overhaul, but his dislike for Trump and his policies remains.
"What can I do with that? Not a lot. Buy some groceries, maybe pay a bill or two. That’s it," said Smith, as he deposited materials for recycling at the Home Depot where he works. He figured that after taxes, the bonus netted him $280.
Home Depot last month announced it would give its hourly workers a bonus of up to $1,000 as a result of Trump’s tax plan.
"I did benefit, yes, but, I believe, in seven years, anything we get is going to disappear," said Smith, adding he believed the tax plan was a “rip-off” that would help the wealthy and add $1 trillion to the national debt.
Smith, who sports a long pony tail, lives with his wife in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park, where he owns a home. Their two children are off to college.
He says the middle-class will eventually pay for the tax breaks, in cuts to programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
"That money’s got to come from somewhere, and it’s going to wind up coming from the middle-class," said Smith, who made about $55,000 in 2017 from the two jobs he works.
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in history and political science, Smith said he moved to Florida in 1991 and took any job he could.
He has worked part time for Home Depot for 10 years, on top of working full-time at an aluminum processing company, which did not pay a tax-related bonus. Smith said he will probably work until he is 70.
Asked how he felt about Trump, Smith said: "To be honest, I can’t stand the man."
- WILL ORTEGA, San Antonio, Texas Trump supporter Will Ortega, 32, was happy to see trickle-down economics in action when he got a bigger paycheck due to the tax cuts.
A supervisor at an infrastructure safety company, which controls traffic during highway renovation projects in San Antonio, Ortega's take-home bimonthly paycheck went up by $50, and he knew exactly what to do with it.
"Lunch money," he said, sitting at his desk wearing his neon yellow work clothes. "I was real careful with how I spent my money on food. Now it’s like if I want to go out to eat an extra day or not wake up early to make lunch, I don’t have to worry about it."
Ortega, who lives with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old daughter, makes about $50,000 a year.
"I’m a firm believer in the trickle-down economics of it, he said. "I'm real happy that my boss got a tax break, given he’s not a Fortune 500 CEO."
Ortega said his boss was investing back into the company, which benefited all the workers.
"He’s making more money, and in turn, we just picked up two brand new trucks, so it’s a lot more comfortable for the guys to work in. We’re also able to hire more guys and take some of the workload off us,” he said.
When it comes to Trump, Ortega said he would vote for him again, despite his dislike of Trump's social media presence.
"As a celebrity on social media, I think he’s worthless and I can’t stand him. As for the policies he’s put into effect and the progress he’s making, I couldn’t be happier," he said. - LIZ HAMMOND, Somerville, Massachusetts An administrative assistant at a university outside Boston, Liz Hammond, 36, was skeptical the tax cuts passed by Congress in December would mean much for her financially. And then her paycheck rose by about $5 a week.
"I've seen a change. It's tiny though," Hammond said.
Hammond, who lives in Somerville with her boyfriend and cat, said she fears that the tax package will lead to cuts down the road in social spending programs.
"I have friends who are on food stamps and disability and things like that, and we don't have a (federal) budget sorted out and I am terrified we'll lose these programs," Hammond said, adding that she would gladly have given up the tax cut if it protected those programs.
Hammond said she did not vote for Trump and was no likelier to vote for his re-election. The new law cut the federal income tax rate on her roughly $45,000 salary to 22 percent from 25 percent, a cut that is set to expire in 10 years.
"When I’ve finished paying off my student loans and start to accumulate money and maybe think about saving for a house, it's not going to be there," Hammond said. "I don't know anyone who is benefiting from this." - JEFF ANDERSON, Lincoln, Nebraska Jeff Anderson, a 33-year-old account manager for a software company in Lincoln, Nebraska, said he received a $1,000 bonus because of the tax cut, about $600 after taxes.
"I was able to purchase a few things I've been putting off," Anderson said. "My computer was failing so I built a new one. I bought a few books. The remainder is in savings, just in case."
A registered Democrat who said the bonus represents less than 1 percent of his annual salary, Anderson describes himself as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative."
Anderson lives with his wife in a modest brick home, where he spends his free time brewing craft beer, cooking, gardening and doing home improvement projects.
Although Anderson did not read the tax cut legislation, he feels the benefits depend on demographics.
"I have a feeling the effects will be as varied as the people who make up this country," he said.
Anderson said he did not vote for Trump, whom he feels has no respect for people from different backgrounds.
"To put it nicely, I think he's the embodiment of everything bad about this country," he said. - MICHAEL JEFFERSON, Bloomington, Indiana A graduate assistant making $1,000 a month at Indiana University in Bloomington, Michael Jefferson was disappointed to see a modest $15.22 increase in his paycheck this month as a result of the tax cut bill.
"So about $15 a month for me is maybe a third of a tank of gas or maybe two trips to Chick-fil-A," Jefferson said. "Frankly, the largest tax cut in history was a big bust."
Jefferson, 27, who is originally from Indianapolis, is studying for a dual masters degree in public affairs and environmental science. He has voted Republican in the past but did not vote for Trump.
"This cut is evidence of the fact that he is more show than he is substance," Jefferson said.
When not working as a graduate assistant, Jefferson has three other jobs: substitute teacher, application reviewer for Teach for America and research assistant.
"As a graduate student who makes about $20,000 a year, I saw this as a massive giveaway for the rich," he said. "This bill hasn't changed the fact that I still have to work several different jobs to make ends meet."
Although he is in the lowest tax bracket, Jefferson owns stock in DowDupont Inc and said his investments did increase as a result of the bill's benefiting mostly big companies.
"People who get the largest benefit are not the people who need it," he said. - BYRON JOHNSON, Chicago, Illinois A Republican who is disillusioned by Trump, Byron Johnson, 37, a personal banker in Chicago who grew up on the city's South Side, expects to benefit from tax breaks as a small-time real estate investor.
But the self-described Christian, who has a wife and four kids and lives in a four-bedroom condo in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, feels the tax policy will not help those less fortunate, like some of the struggling families he knew growing up.
"It's hard for a parent to say, Should I pay bills today or should I buy groceries?" he said.
Johnson works at Fifth Third Bank in the city's Loop and also invests in real estate, buying apartment buildings and single-family homes on Chicago's West and South sides, rehabilitating them and renting them out. Johnson said he made over $100,000 a year from his real estate business alone.
He expects to get an even bigger tax break under the new tax law for writing off clothes for meetings, gas, car and part of his home since it includes a small office.
Johnson said he plans to use the extra money for college tuition and weddings of his children, now ages 1 to 13, and to invest in more real estate.
Johnson had flown from London, where he lived previously, back to Chicago to vote for Trump because he felt successful corporate people paid too much in taxes. But he is disappointed by Trump because he feels Trump is prejudiced against some people.
Johnson said he would not vote for Trump again.
"Oh, heck no. This is just pure buffoonery," Johnson said.
- JULIE HERNANDEZ, San Antonio, Texas Home Depot cashier Julie Hernandez, 56, was shocked to get a $140 bonus check after working at the company for only nine months until a friend explained it was because of the tax bill. "I don’t understand it all. I didn’t know it was from a tax break. We work hard and for them to be paying their employees more, that’s awesome," she said as she crossed the street to go to a Dairy Queen in San Antonio after a four-hour shift.
Hernandez has been working customer service jobs for the last 38 years, from fast-food to retail, and earns about $10,000 a year.
Hernandez, who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, said she is grateful for the small financial gift but that does not erase Trump’s other faults.
“He’s a bully to foreigners,” she said. “I am grateful, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t change my opinion of him."
After purchasing dinner for herself and her elderly mother, Hernandez scrambled to the bus stop as the bus approached. She takes two buses to travel back and forth to work, a 10-15 minute ride if the drivers are on schedule, up to an hour if they are not.
Hernandez pays $38 a month for an unlimited bus pass so the bonus check will cover some of her travel expenses.
“I’m going to try to stretch it out. I live on my checking account," she said.
- RACHEL KEANE, Douglas County, Colorado. Rachel Keane, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of three small children who voted for Trump, was happy to see her family's income boosted by the tax overhaul.
Her husband makes about $100,000 annually as a software engineer, and the new tax law has added $300 per month to his take-home pay, she said.
"It may be crumbs to some people, but not to me," she said in a telephone interview. She said the family will use the money to pay for groceries and other household expenses.
"And my husband and I might even be able to go on a date night," she said.
Keane said she supports the reduction in the corporate tax rate and said it will benefit working Americans.
"I’m very pleased with the president, he’s showing real leadership," she said. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lisa Maria Garza in San Antonio, Texas, Scott Malone in Boston, Gina Cherelus in New York, Kevin O'Hanlon in Lincoln, Nebraska, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Keith Coffman in Denver and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Leslie Adler)