Proposed tax legislation under consideration in Congress needs many changes to avoid further harming the poor, the U.S. bishops have said.
“Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill,” they said. “However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy. This is simply unconscionable.”
The bishops’ Nov. 9 letter to Members of Congress concerned the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It was signed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cant√∫ of Las Cruces, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, who chairs the Committee on Catholic Education.
Citing the non-partisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the bishops said that under the current version of the bill households with income between $20,000 and $40,000 per year would see tax increases in 2023, 2025, and 2027. In 2025, taxes will increase on most taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000.
“At the same time, significant tax breaks to the very wealthy — including millionaires and billionaires — are projected for each year,” the bishops’ letter continued.
The bishops said amendments are needed “for the sake of families” and “for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.”
They found positive aspects of the bill in areas of education and child tax credits.
At the same time, they objected that the bill puts “new and unreasonable burdens” on families.
The bishops’ letter also objected to the removal of the adoption tax credit, which was only restored to the bill on Thursday after much protest from adoption advocates.
Other fixes are needed to remove disincentives for charitable giving and development projects for affordable housing and community revitalization, the bishops said.
They warned the budget deficit could be used as an excuse to limit or end “programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty.”