Nov 11, 2017

House Tax Bill Raises Concern Among Advocates for Seniors, The Disabled

Debate on the proposed tax overhaul is heating up. Both chambers of Congress have now produced their own bills which have significant differences.

Advocates for older Americans and the disabled have strongly criticized a key provision in the House's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill eliminates the itemized medical expense deduction, which currently allows taxpayers who spend more than 10% of their adjusted gross income on medical costs to deduct a portion from their taxes. It is anticipated that older Americans, the chronically ill and the disabled - those who tend to have high medical expenses - would be most impacted. Out-of-pocket costs for long-term care would not be deductible, nor would premiums for long-term care insurance, co-pays, etc.  

Only about 6% of filers - 8.8 million households - itemized medical expenses in 2015, reports the IRS. But of those who did, the AARP notes, 74% were over the age of 50, and half had incomes of $50,000 or less.

House Republicans counter the criticism by noting the small percentage of Americans who take the itemized deduction. They assert that overall, the proposed bill would be helpful to seniors. Republican Rep. George Holding of North Carolina states: "In the context of tax reform, this targeted deduction is no longer vital thanks to the other tax benefits for seniors and all Americans provided in this bill."

Another area of concern for some is the elimination of the Orphan Drug Tax Credit, which allows pharmaceutical and biotech companies to deduct up to 50% of the cost of clinical trials for treatments of rare diseases, such as Lou Gehrig's Disease and Huntington's Disease. Orphan drugs target diseases that affect less than 200,000 Americans.

Many are also worried about the House's plan to do away with the tax deduction for interest on student loans, which was claimed by 12 million filers in 2015. The tax break is available to single taxpayers who earn up to $80,000 per year, and married couples who earn up to $160,000 per year.

You can read the House bill here.
Read a summary of the Senate bill here.

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