Tax season is already underway, but changes are still on the way. While President Trump’s massive tax plan was signed into law just before the new year, actual changes to how much you pay in taxes won’t likely come until next year’s tax season. But many LGBTQ advocates warn other provisions could start costing you money and services soon.
“The tax package will undoubtedly hurt the LGBTQ community,” said Laura Durso, vice president of LGBTQ research and communications for the Center for American Progress.
She and others, like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, have come out against the new law, saying it will cost a disproportionate number of LGBTQ people their health care. They’re concerned about the part of the tax plan that rolls back the Obamacare requirement for everyone to purchase health insurance.
“No one, not a single person, will lose their health care as a result of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act,” said Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of conservative LGBTQ members. While the GOP maintains that health care coverage won’t change, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report predicts it will cost 13 million people their health insurance in the next 10 years. Four million of those are expected to lose coverage over the next year alone. Others are expected to see health care costs rise.
“LGB individuals are less than half as likely as heterosexual individuals to have access to coverage through a spouse or partner’s employer,” said Durso. Those not covered by group health insurance will see premiums rise by about 10 percent in most years of the upcoming decade, according to the CBO report.
Both LGBTQ and low-income advocates fought the legislation that was rushed through both chambers of Congress in less than 24 hours. It did not receive a single vote from democrats. They argued they simply didn’t have enough time to read through the bill before voting, and what they did see seemed to provide tax relief to big companies while costing average Americans more.
Here is what we do know.
The tax package lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. That tax cut is permanent. Standard deductions for individuals and families will double, as will child tax-credits. Those tax cuts are temporary and will expire in seven years.
Tax cuts sound good. But analysts warn that the money lost through tax cuts must be made up somewhere else. With corporations and upper-income individuals getting even bigger tax breaks, that money will likely come from cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. That could impact programs for everyone from people with HIV/AIDS to people with disabilities and the elderly.
How much money are we talking about? The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget predicts that this tax plan will cause the national debt to double—literally double—over the next 10 years. That’s an increase of between $1.5 and $2.2 trillion dollars to the deficit. The exact price tag varies from analyst to analyst and will fluctuate with economic expansion or deflation.
“Programs crucial to the LGBTQ community like Medicare, Medicaid, global HIV and AIDS programs, and the Ryan White Care Act will surely face future efforts to cut their benefits,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for the HRC. The HRC estimates 40 percent of people with HIV/AIDS depend on Medicaid for health care.
Angelo, and other conservatives like him, argue the tax plan will spur economic growth, which will benefit the economy. He is particularly happy about the death tax reform, which he said “has been a cornerstone of the LCR tax policy going back more than a decade.”
The measure mostly benefits the very rich. Money or property left to heirs after death will now only be taxed after $11 million, instead of the current base of $5 million. So if you have less than $5 million when you die, this reform won’t impact you.
“Total repeal of the death tax remains a priority to the Log Cabin Republicans,” said Angelo.
More concerning to middle and lower-class families is a cap on certain write-offs. Until now, taxpayers could deduct all taxes paid to state and local governments, including property, income, and sales tax. The tax reform will limit those write-offs to $10,000. That could cost middle class homeowners a significant amount of money.
Republican representatives from areas with high state taxes and high property values, like California, New Jersey, and New York, were among the 12 members of the GOP to vote against the tax measure in the House. They know their constituents will face some of the biggest losses with the new reforms.
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) identifies as gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. He told the Washington Blade he voted against the tax measure because “It raises property taxes for us and 83 percent of the benefits go to the richest one percent.”
In Colorado, votes were split down party lines, with all republican house and senate members voting for the new tax codes and all democrats voting against them. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) was a key vote in getting the measure out of the Senate Budget Committee, where it faced tough debate.
While cuts to social programs have not happened yet, Durso said, “Members of the community need to be vigilant to see if lawmakers use the deficits resulting from the tax package to attack programs that are vital to LGBTQ people, including the 1.8 million LGBTQ people on Medicaid.”
One way, she said, is to check out the Hands Off campaign at HandsOff.org. She also suggests working on a local level.
“LGBTQ community members can speak out… to mayors, city councils, county commissioners, state legislators, and governors to pass policies that will protect them from these changes,” Durso said.