Natalie De Vincenzi

Senator Flake's "Opportunity in Federal Construction Act" Will Stop Wasted Taxpayer Dollars

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, 9:30 AM PERMALINK

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) will soon introduce the “Opportunity in Federal Construction Act,” legislation that requires federal construction projects to use a more accurate wage determination process.

Because of the Davis-Bacon Act, the federal government is forced to pay contractors working on federally funded construction projects flawed and unrealistic prevailing market wages. This legislation fixes this oversight and ensures taxpayer dollars are more wisely spent. As such, Senators should have no hesitation supporting this important legislation.

Under the Davis-Bacon Act, any federal construction project must pay their workers the prevailing wage of a locality as defined by the Wage and Hourly Division. Unfortunately, this measurement is severely flawed and drives up the cost of projects at taxpayer expense.

 On average, Davis Bacon wages are 22 percent above market rates resulting in construction costs that are 10 percent higher than comparable projects. Half of the wage rates that are determined by surveys are more than ten years old, and some even date back to the 1980s. Worse still, the Department of Labor Inspector General found a nearly 100 percent error rate in the accuracy of wage calculation.

Clearly, there is need for reform. Senator Flake’s legislation addresses this issue by shifting the determination process to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics which has the capability to more accurately determine appropriate pay and already calculates wages for more than two million federal employees. To ensure wage determination is being implemented and reformed properly, the legislation also calls for a GAO report one year after implementation.

Ultimately, a more accurate wage determination process will save taxpayers billions in dollars and generate as many as 30,000 more construction jobs. This legislation is commonsense and should be supported by all Senators. 

 

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ATR Supports Bill to Grant Equal Access to CRS Reports

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, May 1st, 2017, 10:36 AM PERMALINK

Represenative Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) have introduced a bill that would grant public access to Congressional Research Service reports. The Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act is a commonsense piece of legislation.

American taxpayers are the ones who finance CRS, yet are not allowed access to the reports CRS produces. Only those who are well connected or work in a Congressional office have access to these reports. However, this is not the norm. Other government agencies, such as the Congressional Budget Office, freely publish their work and make it accessible to everyone.

Americans for Tax Reform supports Rep. Lance and Rep. Quigley's piece of legislation and urges all members of Congress to support it as well. Read the letter here or below. 

May 1, 2017

The Honorable Leonard Lance
United States House of Representatives
2352 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Mike Quigley
United States House of Representatives
2458 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Lance and Congressman Quigley, 

I write in support of the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act. This legislation directs the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to create a publicly accessible database of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports and give taxpayers access to the reports they fund.

American taxpayers pay $100 million a year in order to finance the Congressional Research Service, yet are not granted access to the reports they produce. Each year, experts at CRS complete 1,000 new reports and update 2,500 more, but only those who are Congressional staffers or are well connected have access to these reports.

There is no reason these reports should not be public. Even the concerns CRS has raised do not hold any merit.  Granting public access does not mean confidential reports must be released, but only that taxpayers be allowed free, public access to non-confidential reports.

CRS is an outlier when it comes to public access – other agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) already make their research freely available to the public.

When CRS was founded in 1914, it adopted a policy not to make the reports public because it would cost too much to print and distribute. In the digital age this limitation no longer exists.

Today, copies of CRS reports are already widely found on the web and frequently sent to curious constituents. They are not kept secret, yet are not made widely available.

Public access to CRS reports is a basic issue of transparency and giving taxpayers access to information that will enrich public knowledge.

As such, all Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting, co-sponsoring, and voting for the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Supports USA Act of 2017 to Stop Unauthorized Spending

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, 3:00 PM PERMALINK

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) today introduced the Unauthorized Spending Account (USA) Act of 2017, legislation designed to restore Congressional authority over the power of the purse by ensuring all federal programs are properly authorized.

As it stands, unauthorized spending programs make up nearly 30 percent of the government’s discretionary budget. The USA Act will put a stop to this trend by subjecting all unauthorized programs to be subject to a sunset schedule. Additionally, this bill would establish a commission to conduct oversight and create the reauthorization schedule.

The USA Act would restore Congressional authority and ensure that Congress conducts oversight on programs that may no longer be necessary, but still come at a cost to taxpayers. ATR supports this important legislation and encourages all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the USA Act. Please read the letter here or below.

April 26, 2017

The Honorable Cathy McMorris Rodgers
United States House of Representatives
1314 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers,

I write in support of the “Unauthorized Spending Accountability” (USA) Act, legislation that implements several reforms designed to restore Congressional authority over the power of the purse by ensuring all programs are properly authorized.

At present, unauthorized federal programs make up $310 billion, or nearly 30 percent of the government’s discretionary budget. This includes important programs at the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. For years, Congress has ceded its authority to fund these programs and they are rolled over each year with little scrutiny or oversight.

The USA Act fixes this problem by implementing several reforms.

First, this legislation subjects all existing unauthorized programs to a three-year sunset schedule. In year one, programs receive just 90 percent of funding and in years two and three, programs receive 85 percent before sun setting after year three. This gives lawmakers a chance to reauthorize important programs before they sunset.

Second, the USA Act establishes the “Spending Accountability Commission” (SAC), to establish authorization schedules for all discretionary programs, conduct rigorous oversight over discretionary spending, and suggest areas to cut. To ensure Congress does not resume bad habits, the commission is required to establish a three year reauthorization schedule for federal programs funded by discretionary spending.

For too long, Congress has shied away from exerting its power of the purse when it comes to many spending programs. By overhauling Congressional authority over the power of the purse, this legislation will ensure lawmakers exert appropriate scrutiny over hundreds of billions in unauthorized spending. ​

ATR supports this important legislation and encourages all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the USA Act.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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ATR Supports Federal Budget Accountability Act

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, April 17th, 2017, 1:53 PM PERMALINK

Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) recently introduced H.R. 1999, the Federal Budget Accountability Act. This legislation requires an annual report to Congress to track whether federal revenue collected as offsets materialize as intended.

For decades, the U.S. has been headed down a path of fiscal unsustainability, spending money that the government doesn’t have. Currently, whenever Congress enacts a pay-for to offset new spending, there is no system in place to ensure that the pay-for works. This bill would help reverse this trend through two ways.

First, H.R. 1999 would call for the Director of Office of Management and Budget to create a system to track any revenue collected. This would also entail tracking the accuracy of such provisions and how effective they are, so that ones that are not working can be re-evaluated.

Secondly, this bill would require the Director of OMB to submit a report to Congress every year on the effect of the offsets and pay-fors enacted. Any provision that increases revenue, reduces the deficit, or reduces spending is to be included in the report and analyzed for 10 years.

The Federal Budget Accountability Act will help ensure that any offsets proposed by lawmakers work as intended when they are implemented in the real world. Doing so will help put the federal government back on a path of fiscal sustainability. ATR supports this bill and urges all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor this important legislation.

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Congress Should Grant Public Access to CRS Reports

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, April 17th, 2017, 12:35 PM PERMALINK

American taxpayers spend $100 million every year to finance reports by the Congressional Research Service, yet are not granted access to the reports they produce. Instead, full access is available only to Congressional staffers or those who are well connected enough to get a hold of these reports.

Since taxpayers are financing the CRS, it is only right that they have access to reports. Public access to CRS reports is a basic issue of transparency and giving taxpayers access to information that will enrich public knowledge. As ATR’s President Grover Norquist said: “while taxpayers foot the bill, they are left out of the discussion, with no way to access this research short of calling their congressional office to ask for copies of each report.”

There is no reason these reports should not be public. Even the concerns CRS has raised do not hold any merit.  While publishing a report online could invoke fair use doctrine and draw a liability to the publication, all that is needed is a disclaimer to address any copyright concerns. Granting public access does not mean confidential reports must be released, but only that taxpayers be allowed free, public access to non-confidential reports.

In fact, CRS is an outlier when it comes to public access – other agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) already make their research freely available to the public.

When CRS was founded in 1914, it adopted a policy not to make the reports public because it would cost too much to print and distribute. In the digital age this limitation no longer exists.
Today, copies of CRS reports are already widely found on the web and frequently sent to curious constituents. They are not kept secret, yet are not made widely available.

There is broad support for public access to CRS. Americans for Tax Reform and 45 other organizations wrote a letter to Congress urging expansion of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. [The letter can be found here.]

Similarly, there is bipartisan support in Congress for this change. Last year, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) along with Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) released legislation to provide for the online publication of CRS reports to the public. Members of Congress should again support expanding public access to CRS reports.

There is no reason CRS reports should not be made public. Granting public access to CRS reports is commonsense and increases transparency in the government. 

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ATR Supports Bill to Make Tax Code More Equitable

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, March 30th, 2017, 4:28 PM PERMALINK

Congressman Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Congressman Blumenauer (R-Ore.) have introduced H.R. 1810, the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2017, which will remove the inequities in the tax code that are biased against marijuana dispensaries claiming tax credits or deductions. Section 280E of the tax code prevents businesses with expenditures connected to illegal drug sales from utilizing deductions or tax credits.

However, in 28 states, D.C., and Guam, marijuana businesses are not considered illegal, yet are unfairly discriminated against by Section 280E. Because of this, marijuana businesses nationwide face income tax rates as high as 90%. This bill will remove marijuana businesses from the arbitrary measures of Section 280E and entitle them to the same deductions and credits any other legal business has. Americans for Tax Reform urges support for this bill. Please read the letter here or below. 

The Honorable Carlos Curbelo
United States House of Representatives
1404 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Earl Blumenauer
United States House of Representatives
1111 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Curbelo and Congressman Blumenauer,

I write in support of H.R. 1810, the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2017, legislation which allows legal marijuana dispensaries to take common necessary business deductions under the tax code.

Under 280E of the tax code, marijuana businesses that are operating legally under state law in 28 states, D.C., and Guam are not allowed to deduct necessary business expenses like wages, equipment, and rent from taxable income.

This law was originally created in 1982 to stop drug dealers from taking tax credits and deductions. Today, it is hitting legal businesses across the country resulting in federal income tax rates close to 90 percent.

The Small Business Tax Equity Act addresses this with a simple and commonsense change – amending federal law so that Section 280E does not apply to legal businesses.

The fact is, marijuana businesses that are operating legally should be entitled to the same deductions and credits under the tax code as any other business.  Passage of the Small Business Tax Equity Act will remove the arbitrary and punitive measures of the tax code that treat legal marijuana businesses as illegal. All members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

 

 

 

 

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ATR Supports Biennial Budgeting Bill

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 2:40 PM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist wrote a letter to Congressman Messer in support of H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms.

This key piece of legislation will increase efficiency and oversight over federal spending and remove any practices that promote wasted spending. The failure of Congress to complete a budget and appropriations process numerous times over the last 40 years is an issue that needs to be addressed. A biennial budgeting process, like the one created by this bill, would help resolve that problem. Read the letter here or below. 

March 20, 2017

The Honorable Luke Messer
United States House of Representatives
1230 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Congressman Messer,

I write to express support for your bill, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. The legislation, H.R. 1065, offers a new approach to solve Washington gridlock, and promote efficiency in federal spending.

 The 1978 Budget Act has created a broken system that is rigged toward higher spending. In the last 40 years, the appropriations process has been completed just four times. Within the last 20 years, it has been completed just once. Congress has even failed to pass a budget in 9 of the last 18 years.

H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms. This would allow Congress ample time to allocate how it spends taxpayer dollars and conduct oversight over federal programs. Lawmakers would be required to complete the budget process in non-election years, so they are not impeded by campaign responsibilities.

By using election years to focus on studying long-term budgetary and economic effects, your legislation will ensure strong oversight over federal spending. In turn, this will allow Congress to better understand and highlight how much money an agency or program needs based on the economic implications it would produce. Wasteful or unnecessary programs can then be better identified and cut.

A biennial budget process like the one created by H.R. 1065 could reverse current practices that are biased towards waste, not prudence. Agencies are rarely able to plan effectively in the shortened budget windows created by stopgap measures. As a result, the current system encourages federal agencies to abide by a “use it or lose it” mentality, in which they spend billions during the last few weeks in order to avoid having their budget reduced for the next year.

It is clear that our current budget system does not work. Your legislation recognizes that and implements key reforms that aim to streamline the budget process to allow Congress to better conduct oversight and combat waste. I urge your colleagues to support H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Lawmakers Should Oppose Tax Increases on Capital Gains

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, March 9th, 2017, 6:20 PM PERMALINK

In a letter sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Chairman of the Ways and Means Commitee Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Americans for Tax Reform along with 31 other organizations urged members of Congress to oppose any increases in the capital gains tax. The conversation surrounding tax reform should not include increasing the tax on capital gains or carried interest. If anything, it should move to lower the tax on capital gains. Read the letter here or below. 

March 9th, 2017

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kevin Brady
Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Ryan & Chairman Brady:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write in support of your efforts to pass pro-growth tax reform and urge you to oppose efforts to increase taxes on capital gains.

The next four years represents an opportunity to reduce -- not increase taxes on capital gains. Over the past eight years, the top rate increased from 15 percent to 23.8 percent, and the top integrated rate currently sits at 56.3 percent compared to the OECD/BRIC average of 40.3 percent. 

While it appears unlikely that incoming lawmakers and the administration will increase rates outright, they should also be sure not to incrementally move the needle toward higher capital gains taxes in other ways, like boosting taxes on carried interest capital gains.

Carried interest capital gains income is earned through a net gain within a partnership formed between individuals with capital and an expert investor. They are indistinguishable from any other type of capital and so they are paid at the same capital gains tax rates. 

While supporters of higher taxes on carried interest capital gains say it takes aim at 'hedge fund guys,' it would also hurt pension funds, charities, and colleges that depend on these investment partnerships as part of their savings goals. In addition, small businesses, innovators, and

inventors would find themselves increasingly shut out from investment money available to them from these partnerships.

Rather than supporting proposals that lead to higher capital gains tax rates, the incoming Congress and administration should look toward lower rates. One model to follow is contained in the House GOP blueprint, which reduces the top rate on capital gains to 16.5 percent.

Today, pro-growth tax reform is needed more than ever. It is imperative that lawmakers prioritize an overhaul of the tax code as well as protect the areas of the current tax code that promote innovation, investment, and growth. 

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Pete Sepp
President, National Taxpayers Union and Foundation

Jim Martin
Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Norm Singleton
Vice President for Policy, Campaign for Liberty

James Edwards
Co-Director, Inventors Project

Charles Sauer
President, Market Institute

Larry Ward
Chairman, Constitutional Rights PAC

Shaun McCutcheon
Chairman, Conservative Action Fund

Colonel Rob Maness
Chairman, Gator PAC

Donny Ferguson
Chairman, BetterEconomy.org

George Landrith
President, Frontiers of Freedom

Andrew Langer
President, The Institute for Liberty

Judson Phillips
Founder, Tea Party Nation

Paul Morinville
Chairman, US Inventors

Andrew F. Quinlan
President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Louis Foreman
President, Edison Nation

Dee Hodges, President
Maryland Taxpayers Association

David Williams
President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance 

Melissa Ortiz
Founder and Principal, Able Americans

Dan Weber
CEO, Association of Mature American Citizens

Mario Lopez
President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Gregory T. Angelo
President, Log Cabin Republicans

Willes K. Lee
President, National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Derrick Hollie
President, Reaching America

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment

Dick Patten
President, American Business Defense Council

Adam Brandon
President and CEO, Freedomworks

Jeffrey Mazzella
President, Center for Individual Freedom

Richard A. Viguerie
Chairman, Conservative HQ

Adrian Pelkus
President, San Diego Inventors Forum

Randy Landreneau
Founder, Independent Inventors of America

Iain Murray
Vice President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

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Tax Reform Must Preserve the Deduction for Advertising Costs

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi, Alexander Hendrie on Friday, February 17th, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

2017 marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform. As lawmakers move forward with tax reform, they must retain the ability of businesses to deduct advertising costs. Eliminating or removing this deduction would distort business decisions and undermines the goals of growth, simplicity, and equity that drive tax reform. 

[ATR letter in support of preserving advertising deduction]

Treating Advertising Costs Differently From Other Business Decisions Would Distort the Tax Code: Advertising is one of many costs of doing business that firms are properly allowed to deduct, and has been treated as such in the tax code for more than 100 years. Other costs to businesses include wages and other forms of compensation, travel, and rent.

There is little difference between advertising costs and these other business expenses. Changing current law would needlessly create a bias against investing in advertising. In turn, this would encourage businesses to make economically inefficient decisions based on tax reasons.

Eliminating the Advertising Deduction Would Have Drastic Economic Consequences: Past tax reform proposals have called for limiting or eliminating the advertising deduction as a “pay-for” in tax reform. However, any revenue raised in this way would be dwarfed by the negative impacts to the economy. 

In total, advertising directly or indirectly supports almost 22 million jobs and $5.8 trillion in total economic output. Every dollar of advertising spending generates $22 of economic activity. Advertising associated with local radio and television is alone projected to contribute more than $1 trillion in economic output and 1.38 million jobs.

Preserving the Deductibility of Advertising is Consistent With the Principles of the “Better Way” Tax Reform Blueprint: One of the most pro-growth changes in the House Republican blueprint is the creation of a “cash-flow” business tax that allows businesses to immediately deduct the costs associated with necessary expenses like the purchase of tangible and intangible assets.

This gives business owners a zero percent rate on dollars spent when they invest in their business, which in turn drives stronger growth, and helps create more jobs and higher wages. In fact, implementation of immediate full business expensing would lead to an estimated long-term GDP growth of 5.4 percent and create more than one million jobs, according to the Tax Foundation.

Implementing full business expensing is a vital step toward creating a pro-growth tax code. At the same time, taking the existing treatment of advertising costs in the other direction by forcing it to be depreciated over multiple years makes no economic sense and undermines both the economic gains and the rationale for moving to full business expensing.

As part of the tax reform conversation, legislators should oppose any proposal that removes the ability of businesses to deduct advertising costs as a necessary business expense. Limiting this provision would undermine economic growth, the principles of the “Better Way” blueprint, and completely distorts business decisions.

 

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ATR Supports H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, February 16th, 2017, 12:14 PM PERMALINK

One of the many Obamcare tax hikes was an income tax increase that increased the threshold at which Americans could deduct out of pocket medical expenses.  Prior to Obamacare, this threshold allowed Americans to deduct any out of pocket medical expense that exceeded 7.5 percent of their annual adjusted income, but Obamacare raised this threshold to 10 percent. This increase has a large effect on many including the elderly who typically have high medical expenses and the least flexibility in their income. 

Representative McSally (R-AZ) has introduced legislation, H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act, to put a stop to these Obamacare tax increases and provide much needed tax relief for seniors and the middle class. Last year, the legislation passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 261-147 and as such, it should have no problem being passed again this year. Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges all members of Congress to support it as well. See the letter here or below: 

February 16, 2017

The Honorable Martha McSally
United States House of Representatives
510 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congresswoman McSally,

I write in support of H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act, legislation to stop Obamacare’s 2017 tax increases on out of pocket medical expenses and provide tax relief to Americans.  This piece of legislation easily passed in the last Congress with large bipartisan support and will most likely pass again with widespread support.

Seniors and the middle class bear the brunt of Obamacare’s tax increases. Prior to passage of Obamacare, Americans could deduct out of pocket medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted annual income.  10.2 million families used this tax provision in 2012 with an average of under $8,500 in medical expenses claimed. More than half of the families that used this provision made less than $50,000 per year.

Thanks to Obamacare, this threshold increased to 10 percent for most families, and on January 1, 2017 it also increased for seniors. This tax hike represents President Obama once again violating his “firm pledge” against “any form of tax increase” on any American earning less than $250,000.

Typically, the elderly have the costliest medical expenses and require greater medical care. In addition, they typically no longer have an influx of income, instead relying on their savings. Obama’s tax increase from 7.5 to 10 percent will have a ringing effect on seniors, who often no longer have an influx of income. 

H.R. 1051 stops this tax increase on seniors and reinstates the older, lower threshold for medical expenses for all Americans. This tax hike represents yet another way Obamacare has hurt American families, who were already struggling to receive the medical care they need.

Americans for Tax Reform supports the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act and urges all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor this important legislation to relieve Obamacare’s tax burden on the middle class and seniors.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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