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You said a lot of things that cover all parts of the map. First of all we are talking about NET taxes. If you have 1K of federal income taxes taken out during the year but get various credits and refunds that bring your final net bill to zero, you can't be "refunded" anything more. ...

Actually, you can. Some credits are refundable... that is, they can reduce your tax liability below $0. Earned Income Tax Credit is one of these. The rest of your post is on point. The tax code is both a method of funding government operations and engineering societal change. If it were purely the former, the tax laws could be much simpler.

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