U.S. Bishops Chairman Greatly Disappointed by House Passage of Tax Bill that Harms Poor, Many Families

November 17, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairmanof the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice andHuman Development, expressed "great disappointment" over the House ofRepresentatives' passage of the deeply flawed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, calling on the Senate to work towardlegislation that fixes the problems with H.R.1. The full statement reads asfollows:

"It is greatly disappointing that the U.S. House ofRepresentatives ignored impacts to the poor and families—including those whowelcome life through adoption or have more than three children—and passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act without neededchanges. According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation(JCT), this bill raises taxes on the working poor beginning in 2023, andsimultaneously gives large tax cuts to millionaires. The November 9 letter ofthe USCCB detailed the many deficiencies in the House bill, including theelimination of the personal exemption, which will hurt larger families, and therepeal of the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, which will harm thosewith serious and chronic illness. While weare grateful that the House restored the adoption tax credit, it still repealsan important exclusion for families assisted by their employer to adoptchildren in need, and eliminates incentives for charitable giving. For familiesworking hard for economic security, the bill eliminates the Work OpportunityTax Credit, and tax relief for persons paying for tuition and student loans, aswell as those who retire on disability, among other things.

While H.R. 1 takes an important step toward strengtheningparents' ability to choose a school that best suits their child, its repeal ofimportant provisions that aid both teachers and students in non-governmentelementary and secondary schools should be reversed.

The Senate is currently debating its bill, and the USCCBwill release a more detailed analysis shortly. TheSenate must act decisively to avoid the deficiencies in the House legislation,and craft a final bill that affirms life, cares for the poor, and ensuresnational tax policy aimed at the common good. Right now, the Senate bill doesnot eliminate many of the tax benefits that the House bill does, and this iscommendable. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote on November14 that the $1.5 trillion deficit that is created over 10 years will requirespending cuts, and much of these will likely come from programs that help thepoor. The Senate bill does not include aneeded 'above-the-line' charitable deduction, the omission of which will resultin up to a $13 billion annual decrease in charitable giving.

Senate legislation has also been scored by the JCT asraising taxes on the working poor while giving large tax cuts to millionaires. Inaddition, the Senate proposes to cut additional tax benefits that help working families,and these must be fully understood. It is laudable that the Senate tries toincentivize paid family and medical leave, but the provision is designed tosunset at the end of 2019. Although theSenate bill further expands the child tax credit, the elimination of thepersonal exemption will cause a net loss for larger families.

The Senate must work to ensure a legislative process characterizedby integrity, one in which Americans can fully understand the implication oftax proposals which will be voted upon. It must also seek to pass a law thatdemonstrates that our nation prioritizes care for the most vulnerable amongus."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane,Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, U.S. House ofRepresentatives, U.S. Senate, Tax Cutsand Jobs Act, House bill, Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), working poor,personal exemption, medical deduction, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, tax relief,jobs, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), charitable deduction, adoptionincentive, medical leave, child tax credit, poor, vulnerable.

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