Newsletter Articles

The GOP’s Tax Bill Is a War on Disabled People

By: ELIZABETH PICCIUTO

Elder Law Associates Newsletter dated December 1, 2017

 Under the Republicans’ tax proposal, disabled people—and other vulnerable communities—are set to shoulder a significantly greater responsibility for generating federal tax revenue, even as corporations get a substantial tax break.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recommends sweeping eliminations of most itemized tax deductions and credits. Many of these deductions, taken together, serve both to ease the tax burden of people with disabilities and to improve their health and access to employment and their communities.
 
The provision that will have the most catastrophic effect on disabled people is the removal of the deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Currently, if your out-of-pocket medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct that from your tax bill. In the Jobs and Tax Cuts Bill, that provision is excised completely.
 
Depending on individual circumstances, people who pay out-of-pocket for personal care assistants and durable medical equipment would be among those experiencing the most calamitous repercussions. Someone who needs a new power wheelchair to get to work and recreational events may have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars. A caregiver who can only maintain a full-time career if she hires a personal care assistant to provide care for an aging parent may be forced to quit her job. A disabled person who can live independently in the community so long as he has a personal care assistant may have to live in a nursing home instead.
 
“[Disabled people are] a group at a disadvantage that’s been targeted to raise revenue,” says Thomas Cooke, a professor specializing in tax law at Georgetown University. “The broad sweep of this bill is to cut corporate taxes significantly. Somebody’s got to pay for that reduction. And I’m afraid it’s being paid on the backs of individual taxpayers, including taxpayers with disabilities and medical expenses.”
 
Theodore Seto, a professor specializing in tax policy at Loyola Law School, explained the philosophy underlying the medical expenses deduction. “The income tax is a tax on disposable income, and when you have a catastrophic medical expense, your disposable income really does go down. You are less able to pay than the family next door with the same income who is spending that money on hang-gliding.
 
“In this country we believe, and I think Republicans believe this, that someone who is out there working in the face of massive challenges…deserves credit, deserves help. And this repeal is fundamentally inconsistent with that value,” Seto continued. “This is part of a broader theme in this act. There are many parts of this act that I would characterize as kicking people when they’re down.”
 
 
Article Source: Daily Beast