WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to figure out your federal tax return? You’re not alone, but you’re in the minority.

With the tax filing deadline looming next week, a majority of Americans say completing a federal tax return is easy, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The findings defy conventional wisdom in Washington, where politicians have made careers out of promising a simpler tax system. In another blow to advocates of tax reform, almost no one is willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for a simpler code.

“If you’ve got the equivalent of a high school degree and you know how to do math, it’s very simple,” said Sara Thornton, a small business owner from East Granby, Conn.

Only 7 percent of those surveyed say they would be willing to pay more in federal taxes if the process of filling out a tax return were easier. Some 90 percent say “no, thanks.”

“No, because I don’t know that it is that difficult,” said Alicia Brown of suburban Des Moines, Iowa. “We already pay outlandish taxes because we live in Iowa. We have very high real estate taxes.”

The tax-writing committees in Congress have spent the past several years trying to build momentum for the herculean task of simplifying the tax code. One reason it’s so difficult is there are bound to be winners and losers. Sweeping changes to precious tax breaks will undoubtedly leave some people paying more, while others pay less.

One selling point for tax reform has been a simpler tax form. Ever hear a politician say you should be able to fill out your taxes on the back of a postcard? You’ll probably hear it again during this fall’s elections.

The National Taxpayer Advocate says filers spend a total of 6.1 billion hours a year preparing tax returns, at a cost of $168 billion. According to the IRS, 90 percent of filers either pay a tax preparer or use computer software to help them fill out their returns.

But 58 percent in the AP-GfK poll say completing a federal tax return is easy. Thirty-eight percent call it hard.

Fully 86 percent who have completed their tax forms say they are extremely confident or very confident that they filled them out correctly.

Not surprisingly, higher income taxpayers are more likely to say that filling out tax forms is difficult. Wealthy people tend to have more complicated taxes because they often have multiple sources of income and they are more likely to itemize their deductions, making them eligible for more tax breaks.

Forty-five percent of those with incomes above $100,000 said it is hard, compared with 33 percent among those making less than $50,000.

Through March 28, the IRS has processed 89 million returns. About 82 percent have qualified for refunds, averaging $2,831. That’s about $207 billion in tax refunds. Almost 91 percent of returns have been filed electronically.

Americans think most of their fellow taxpayers are honest, but not all of them. On average, poll-takers estimate that about one-third of Americans intentionally cheat when filling out their tax returns.

Erma Pierce of Poplar Bluff in southeast Missouri said she thinks about half of people cheat on their taxes, and she takes a dim view of it.

“You’re not supposed to cheat, lie or steal,” Pierce said. “It’s against the Bible.”

Thornton, the small business owner in Connecticut, said her estimate depends on the definition of cheating.

“People think of cheating as a case of, I reported I have nine children and I only have two. Or I reported I only made $20,000 this year and I actually made $50,000,” Thornton said. “They think of those forms of cheating, the absolute blatant, extravagant forms.”

Thornton’s definition of cheating is broader, which is why she thinks 80 percent to 90 percent of people cheat on their taxes.

“The minor forms of cheating are things like, well, I can increase my charitable deduction by $200,” Thornton said. “Most people consider, quote, unquote padding their income tax reporting or shaving it off a little bit, they don’t necessarily view that as cheating.”

“I define that as cheating only because it really is.”

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.


AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.



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AP-GfK poll: Third party backers a wild card in 2016 race


WASHINGTON (AP) — Most people who are drawn to third party candidates in the presidential election aren’t sold on their choice, making these voters wild cards in an already unpredictable contest.

A shift in their support toward either of the major party nominees — away from Libertarian Gary Johnson, Jill Stein of the Green Party or another third party candidate — could drastically change the shape of the race.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that nearly 7 in 10 third-party supporters say they could still change their minds.

They are about evenly split between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump if forced to choose between just those two. Nearly one-third refused to pick or said they would just not vote if it came down to that.

Margaret Bonnem, a stay-at-home mother in Colliersville, Tennessee, had previously supported Stein. But now she says she’ll vote for Clinton because she realizes that “a third party candidate can’t really do anything but pull votes away” from the major parties.

“I can’t vote for Trump, and I don’t want him to benefit from me voting for someone else,” said Bonnem, 54. “So I’ll end up voting for someone I don’t fully trust.”

The poll, conducted before last Monday night’s first presidential debate, also shows signs that many third party backers would rather vote for no one than throw their support either to Trump or Clinton.

Among likely voters in the AP-GfK poll saying they’ll support a third party candidate, 7 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of both the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Altogether, the poll found 9 percent of likely voters supported Johnson, 2 percent Stein, and 2 percent “another candidate.”

Among third-party supporters, 72 percent say Clinton’s not at all honest, and 64 percent say she’s at least somewhat corrupt. Sixty-eight percent say Trump is not at all compassionate and 59 percent think he’s at least somewhat racist.

Overall, 8 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of each of the major party nominees. For 6 in 10, that opinion is very unfavorable.

Patrick Cannon, 63, from Minneapolis, says he’ll vote for Johnson though he knows Johnson can’t win.

“I guess my vote is in the nature of a protest vote,” said Cannon, who retired from the graphics industry. “I just can’t bring myself to vote for the other two.”

These third party voters don’t fit into easy political boxes.

They’re disproportionately young: 26 percent of them are under age 30, compared with just 15 percent of likely voters overall. More than half of them self-identify as independents, though when asked which way they lean, they’re about evenly split between the two parties.

They’re deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Eight-two percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, far closer to the percentage for Trump supporters (94 percent) than Clinton supporters (45 percent). Six in 10 disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

Despite their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, 74 percent of them say they would be afraid if Trump is elected president, compared with 56 percent who say that of Clinton. They’re also slightly more likely to say they would be angry about electing Trump than put Clinton in the White House, 54 percent to 45 percent.

Whether the Democrat or the Republican can win them over lends potential volatility to the race. In the AP-GfK poll, 69 percent of them said they could still change their minds about whom to support, while more than 85 percent of both Trump and Clinton supporters said their minds were made up.

Jim Stab, a retired captain in the Navy, is planning to vote for Johnson but says his “leaning is weak.”

“Not voting is a waste,” said Staub, 75, of Laguna Niguel, California. “If I won’t for Johnson, I will for one of them,” meaning Clinton or Trump.

On average, surveys have suggested Clinton may perform slightly better when voters are forced to choose between only Trump and her.

But first, they’d need to actually vote. And there are reasons to think many of them wouldn’t come out to hold their noses for their least-disliked candidate.

While 6 in 10 Trump and Clinton supporters in the AP-GfK poll say they always vote, just 45 percent of third party voters say the same. In fact, more than a quarter straight up say they would not vote if they had to choose between Trump and Clinton.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 160 likely voters who said they’ll vote for a third party candidate, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for third party voters is plus or minus 8.2 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.


Lemire reported from New York.



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AP-GfK poll: Voters more confident in Trump’s health
WASHINGTON (AP) — The “stamina,” the “look”: A new poll suggests voters are buying in to Donald Trump’s insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s health. They’re ignoring the medical reports.

Voters — especially men — have more confidence that Trump is healthy enough for the presidency than Clinton, according to the Associated Press-GfK poll.

It’s a disconnect considering Clinton has released more medical information than Trump, and that outside doctors who’ve looked at the available data say both candidates seem fine. But it shows the political points Trump scored after the Democratic nominee’s much-publicized mild case of pneumonia.

 Another gender divide: Nearly half of women but just 4 in 10 men think Clinton’s health is getting too much attention, found the poll, which was taken before the presidential candidates’ debate on Monday.

“Everybody gets sick,” said Sherri Smart, 56, of New York. She said she hasn’t decided who to vote for but wishes the candidates would discuss issues instead of sniping about who’s most vigorous.

“What’s important is, what are you going to do for me?” Smart said.

The AP-GfK poll found 51 percent of voters are very or extremely confident that Trump is healthy enough to be president. In contrast, just over a third of voters — 36 percent — had the same confidence in Clinton’s health.

Men are more likely to question Clinton’s physical fitness for the job, with 45 percent saying they’re only slightly or not at all confident compared to 34 percent of women. Men and women are about equally likely to express confidence in Trump’s health. More Democrats are confident of Trump’s health than Republicans are of Clinton’s.

Health is a legitimate issue as the nation is poised to elect one of its oldest presidents. Trump, 70, for months held off disclosing much about his own fitness while stoking questions about a woman in the White House with his assertion, repeated on national TV Monday, that Clinton lacks the look and stamina for the job. (As for his apparent sniffles during Monday’s debate, he blamed a bad microphone.)

“Stamina is a code word for maybe not physically up to the job,” said New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who has called for an independent panel to certify the health of presidential candidates. “There’s something of a bias about men versus women that subtly Trump has played to, that men are more fit, tough enough to do the job.”

Clinton, 68, last year released more detail about her own health history only to buy trouble earlier this month by refusing to take a sick day until a public stumble forced her to reveal the pneumonia diagnosis. But Monday she rebutted Trump’s talk of stamina by wondering if he could match her grueling schedule as a secretary of state — traveling to 112 countries, negotiating peace deals, spending 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee.

What exactly do we know about their health? Neither has released their actual medical records, just a summary from their personal physicians with no way to know if anything important was left out.

Yet another disconnect: The AP-GfK poll found nearly 4 in 10 voters don’t consider such a release important, and another 2 in 10 say it’s only moderately important.

Trump’s gastroenterologist in December released a four-paragraph letter saying the GOP nominee would be “the healthiest individual ever elected.” Earlier this month, Trump took to “The Dr. Oz Show” to say he felt great, while releasing a bit more detail, such as his cholesterol levels and cancer screenings.

Bottom line: Trump takes a cholesterol-lowering statin medication and a baby aspirin, has some mild plaque in his arteries and is overweight — but was declared generally in good health.

Last summer, Clinton’s internist released a two-page letter detailing her family history, prior exams including lab test results, and some prior ailments that have healed — including a 2012 concussion and blood clot Clinton suffered after becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus and fainting. This month, a second letter outlined the mild pneumonia and revealed some updated check-up results.

Bottom line: Clinton takes a blood thinner as a precaution given a history of blood clots, as well as a thyroid medication and allergy relievers — but also was declared generally in good health.

Some doctors say just watching how the candidates handle a physically demanding campaign trail and the cognitive finesse needed to debate can give voters a good idea of health.

But while the public may not pay attention to cholesterol tests and EKGs, it was hard to miss that image of Clinton stumbling.

“The public is feeding off the impressions they’ve received, but that’s not borne out by the letters of health,” said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at Quinnipiac University.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.



Poll results: