“Together, we have spoken to give those with disabilities – like my 7-year-old son, Cole – a better life. A life in which those with special needs are not limited by the challenges they face, but empowered because of them.”
For years, the House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whose own son has Down syndrome, has fought to expand the rights and opportunities of individuals with disabilities. For example, spearheading legislation which created access to tax free savings accounts — also known as ABLE accounts — allowing individuals with disabilities and their families to better save for medical expenses. This landmark legislation was signed into law on December 19, 2014.
Through her leadership, Congress has led the charge to expand the hopes and dreams of Americans with disabilities with the latest efforts being included in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.
And yet, somehow, tax reform opponents have taken these efforts and twisted them into what they claim is “a war being waged against the disabled.” And this is just the latest in their fearmongering, naysaying tirade.
The nonsense is unending when it comes to opponents of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. What with claims of Armageddon and death sweeping our nation.
However, the absurdity has truly reached new heights as defenders of the status quo are now trying to use the disability community as pawns in their efforts to delegitimize tax reform.
Now, we’re setting the record straight.
Held within the pages of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act are improvements to the ABLE Act, or ABLE 2.0. Broken down, these include the ABLE Financial Planning Act and the ABLE to Work Act.
ABLE Financial Planning Act
This legislation was born of Chair McMorris Rodgers and other disability advocates who want to empower those with disabilities and their families to save and invest in their futures. In effect, the ABLE Financial Planning Act amends the IRS code to allow for tax-free rollovers of amounts in qualified tuition programs (529 plans) to qualified ABLE programs which are specifically designed to enable individuals with disabilities to save and pay for disability-related expenses.
ABLE to Work Act
There is great joy in the dignity of hard work. This is something Chair McMorris Rodgers has always wanted for her for son, Cole. That’s why she introduced the ABLE to Work Act. This bill allows an ABLE beneficiary who earns income for a job to save up to the Federal Poverty Level, which is currently at $12,060, in addition to their annual contribution limit of $14,000. This is targeted to assist only those disabled individuals who cannot contribute to an employer retirement saving plan.
On top of this, the ABLE to Work Act makes ABLE account contributions eligible for what’s known as the “Saver’s Credit.” This little-known tax credit allows individuals to take a credit of up to $2,000, or $4,000 if filing jointly, to save more money. If you’re low income, the more you save, the more credit you claim.
“ABLE to Work is about giving everyone the opportunity to live the American dream and really unleashing what those with disabilities have to offer this country.”
And the ABLE provisions are not the only part of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act which will create opportunity for Americans with disabilities.
Here’s something else: among individuals with disabilities who are employed (about 34 percent), the median earning is $21,572 for those aged 16 and over.
This means that this particular demographic will MASSIVELY benefit from the measure to nearly double the standard deduction, as is proposed by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. That’s $12,000 of untaxed income for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. In fact, 94 percent of individuals making below $25,000 take the current standard deduction. You can bet that by doubling the standard deduction, we will see even more of those in the low-income brackets (say the $21,000 crowd) opting to claim it over itemizing.
As you can clearly see, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act does not harm the disability community, let alone declare war on them. In fact, it specifically includes provisions to help improve the financial stability of and opportunities for Americans with disabilities.
So it’s time for opponents to stop the fear mongering, the willful misinterpretations, and the pervasive lies about tax reform and its supposed “war against the disabled.” The truth remains that the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is legislation focused on putting American workers, including American workers with disabilities, back at the center of our tax code.
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