With House lawmakers set to release their tax reform bill on November 1, one U.S. bishop has laid out moral principles encouraging Congress to care for the poor, families, and the common good. "You are urged to recognize the critical obligation of creating a just framework aimed at the economic security of all people, especially the least of these," wrote Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida in a letter addressed to Congress.
The letter outlines moral principles to be considered alongside the "Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code,” the Trump administration's template for rewriting and simplifying federal taxes.
“Care for the poor” is first among the bishop’s principles, which also include avoiding cuts to poverty programs to finance the tax reform. Bishop Dewane, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, cited the U.S. bishops’ commitment to evaluating the tax system in terms of its impact on the poor. He emphasized that the burden of tax reform should not fall upon those struggling to meet their daily needs.
One possible impact of the proposed tax changes could be a reduction in charitable giving, Dewane warned. Although the simplification of the tax code in the “Unified Framework” retains tax incentives for charitable contributions, the elimination of the estate tax and increase in the overall standard deduction could reduce incentives to give, leaving the poor vulnerable, he said.
While particularly concerned about the reform’s potential impact on the poor, Dewane’s letter affirmed that some proposed tax changes in the “Unified Framework” could be instrumental in strengthening and encouraging families. An increase in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit could be of particular benefit to families, especially if the “marriage penalty” in the existing tax credit is removed, he said.
The pending overhaul of the current tax system, if passed, is likely to leave a lasting impact on U.S. tax revenues and public spending for years to come. The U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development seeks to ensure that these changes secure a positive future for the poor and for families, DeWane said. Quoting the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” Bishop Dewane’s letter reminded lawmakers that “the goal to be sought is public financing that is itself capable of becoming an instrument of development and solidarity.”