Author archives: Andrew Guernsey

How the New Tax Bill Helps Families

by Andrew Guernsey

January 4, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1 “TCJA”), signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, provides numerous provisions that benefit working families.

Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) has a positive impact on individual families and the economy as a whole and helps parents bear the costs of raising their children.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the CTC for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by:

  • Increasing the CTC to $2,000 for children under 17;
  • Making the CTC refundable up to $1,400 (indexed for inflation) for low-income working families based on
    • 15 percent of earned income in excess of $2,500; or
    • (if greater) the amount of payroll taxes in excess of the earned income tax credit, for a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children;
  • Removing the CTC marriage penalty for the income phase-out, and increasing the income threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly;
  • Providing a $500 non-refundable Family Care Credit credit for dependents who don’t receive the CTC; and
  • Requiring a qualifying child to have a Social Security Number for a taxpayer to claim the CTC

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Penalty

Starting in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. This helps many working families obtain relief from being forced into an Obamacare health insurance plan. Repealing the individual mandate penalty also allows individuals to forgo purchasing coverage if doing so violates their conscience. This is especially relevant for individuals who live in the states where there are few or no pro-life health insurance plans that exclude coverage of abortion.

Marriage Penalties

Marriage penalties exist in the tax code and also in welfare programs. The penalty generally applies in the tax code when a tax deduction or credit applies to single and married persons based on income, but a married couple is eliminated from receipt of the benefit making less than 200 percent of an eligible single person’s income.

Income Tax Brackets

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has no marriage penalties for five of seven tax income brackets for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

  • Marriage bonus in the 22 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent lower rate than single filers for the first $25,000 they make over $140,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $500 bonus, decreasing income taxes by up to 1.41 percent.
  • Small marriage penalty in the 32 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have an 8 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $5,000 they make over $315,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $400 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 0.61 percent.
  • Large marriage penalty in the 37 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 2.59 percent.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces marriage penalties for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by removing the marriage penalty for the AMT income phase-out ($500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married couples filing jointly). TCJA retains the marriage penalty for the AMT exemption ($70,300 for single filers and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly).

  • Due to the marriage penalty in the AMT exemption,
    • Married couples filing jointly are taxed at 26 percent higher rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $109,400 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,112 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 22.19 percent.
    • Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher AMT tax rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $295,700 in taxable income. This is a maximium $624 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 0.71 percent.

Other Marriage Penalty Provisions

  • Retains a marriage penalty for the $10,000 State and local income tax (SALT), property tax, and/or sales tax deduction, which is equal in amount for single filers and married couples filing jointly. This is a maximum $3,700 penalty.
  • Removes the marriage penalty in the Child Tax Credit phase-out ($200,000 for single filers, $400,000 for married couples filing jointly).
  • Fails to address the marriage penalty for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Alimony Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently repeals the alimony deduction, which subsidizes divorce. A divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result by receiving a tax break for payments between them than a married couple can. Removing the alimony deduction restores equitable treatment for divorced and married couples’ expenses for child support.

529 Education Savings Accounts

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently allows 529 education savings accounts to be used for up to $10,000 per year per child for K-12 tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.

529 plan contributions have tax-free earnings and are exempt from the annual federal gift tax if under $14,000 for that year ($28,000 for married couples filing jointly). Contributions to 529 plans receive significant tax breaks in many states. Previously, the 529 plans were only allowed to be used for higher education related expenses.

Death Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the tax exclusion from the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” thereby shielding from taxation the first $11.2 million (indexed for inflation) of bequeathed assets. This provision applies for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

The death tax is double taxation that handicaps families, and particularly family-owned businesses, by imposing heavy and burdensome taxes on bequeathed assets. Families often work as a unit to build their small businesses, but when a parent dies with the intention of leaving his or her small business to the children who helped build it, that transfer of assets is often taxed at such high rates that the business cannot continue operating and pay the government, causing the grieving family to close the business’s doors.

Adoption Tax Credit

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act retains the adoption tax credit in current law, which is currently a $13,570 non-refundable credit per eligible child (with a phase out for wealthier individuals). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, in 2015 over 111,000 children were waiting to be adopted. Maintaining the adoption tax credit in current law helps adoptive children find loving families.

Standard Deduction and Charitable Giving

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the deduction for personal exemptions, including the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, and any dependents. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for the taxpayer and taxpayer’s spouse into a larger standard deduction. The standard deduction is substantially increased from $6,300 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples (and surviving spouses), giving working parents more take-home pay to provide for their families. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for children and dependents into the expanded child tax credit and a new family tax credit to care for non-child dependents. However, increasing the standard deduction could harm charitable giving, including to nonprofits and churches, since fewer people will likely itemize.

A Comparison of the Democrat and Republican Platforms

by Andrew Guernsey

July 25, 2016

Last week, the Republican Party ratified its 2016 platform that includes key socially conservative planks on life, marriage, and religious liberty, which FRC Action, in tandem with our partner delegates, helped to improve from the 2012 platform. This week, the Democrats approved their platform, which swings them even farther to the extreme left on their radical social agenda.

While platforms are non-binding documents, research shows they matter—significantly. One study found that in the past 30 years, Republicans in Congress voted for positions supported by their party platform 89 percent of the time, while Democrats did so at a rate of 74 percent. If Republicans and Democrats in Congress make good on their party platforms’ promises, people of faith heading to the polls in November can be confident that Republicans will defend life, marriage, and religious liberty, while Democrats will continue to put those same values under direct assault.

The difference between the two parties’ platforms could not be clearer on values issues. Here are some concrete instances:

 

MARRIAGE

On the Redefinition of Marriage

Democrats support the Court’s judicial activism in Obergefell “that recognized LGBT people … have the right to marry the person they love.”

Republicans, on the other hand, “condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor … [and] Obergefell v. Hodges, which … robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To echo Scalia, we dissent.” Republicans “urge its [Obergefell’s] reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.”

On Supporting Marriage and Family

The Democrats look to government and “social support services,” not marriage and family as the foundation of American society. Without mentioning the family or natural marriage, Democrats “are committed to creating a society where children … can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually … [through] civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child.”

The Republicans, on the other hand, affirm that “the American family … is the foundation of civil society, and the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman.” The platform affirms the numerous benefits of natural marriage to human flourishing, and supported by overwhelming evidence from social science, concludes that “every child deserves a married mom and dad.” Republicans believe that “strong families, depending upon God and one another, advance the cause of liberty by lessening the need for government in their daily lives,” and conversely, “the loss of faith and family life leads to greater dependence upon government.” The Platform also discourages cohabitation and calls for “marriage penalties to be removed from the tax code and public assistance programs.”

 

ABORTION

On Pro-Life Laws

The Democrats say they “will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion … We believe unequivocally that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.”

The 2016 Republican Platform is arguably the most pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party. It states in unequivocal terms that “the Democratic Party is extreme on abortion … Because of their opposition to simple abortion clinic safety procedures, support for taxpayer-funded abortion, and rejection of pregnancy resource centers that provide abortion alternatives, the old Clinton mantra of ‘safe, legal, and rare’ has been reduced to just ‘legal.’ We are proud to be the party that protects human life and offers real solutions for women.”

The Platform applauds the U.S House for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, declaring, “We strongly oppose infanticide.” It also supports a human life amendment to the Constitution, abortion clinic regulations, federal and state bans on abortions at 20 weeks, when pre-born babies can feel pain, bans on abortions based on sex or disability, and bans on “the cruelest forms of abortion, especially dismemberment abortion procedures, in which unborn babies are literally torn apart limb from limb.” It calls for a ban on human cloning and the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research, and also applauds Congress for banning research involving three parent embryos.

On the Hyde Amendment

For the first time in history, the Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, call for “repealing the Hyde Amendment” to allow the government to fund abortion on demand.

On the Hyde Amendment, the Republicans oppose the Democrats’ extremism directly: “As Democrats abandon this four decade-old bipartisan consensus, we call for codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare.” Republicans also “will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.”

On Planned Parenthood and the Selling of Baby Body Parts

The Democrats support taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood by name: “We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people.”

The Republicans, for the first time, denounce Planned Parenthood by name for committing abortions, selling baby parts, and deceiving women with faulty fetal harvesting consent forms: “We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.” It calls on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts.

 

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

The Democrats promise to “appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion … and see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress.”

The Republicans “support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.” Such appointments would “enable courts to begin to reverse the long line of activist decisions—including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases—that have usurped Congress’s and states’ lawmaking authority, undermined constitutional protections, expanded the power of the judiciary at the expense of the people and their elected representatives, and stripped the people of their power to govern themselves.”


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

On Recognizing God in Government

Short of mentioning “God-given potential,” which elicited boos and controversy at the 2012 Democratic Convention, the Democratic Platform includes no direct reference to God. The Democrat platforms speak frequently of rights, but only as they come from government, never as coming first from God. They give lip service to religion—that “our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith in many forms and the countless acts of justice, mercy, and tolerance it inspires.” But there is one major exception—the Democrats only support a “progressive vision of religious freedom” that “rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate” on LGBT issues—such as the millions of Christians who support natural marriage.

The Republican Platform affirms that God is central to American government, society and our way of life, saying: “every time we sing, ‘God Bless America,’ we are asking for help. We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise.” The Platform affirms what the Declaration of Independence sets forth: “That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.” As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Republican platform affirms that God, not the government, is the final authority, even above human laws, and sets the highest law we must follow. In light of this fact, Republicans “support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

On Religious Freedom on Abortion

The Democrats’ radical push for abortion makes no exception even for religious organizations or conscience protections for doctors or nurses who object to abortion. The Platform pledges to “defend the ACA … including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.” This alludes to the Obama administration’s contraception/abortifacient mandates against Christian businesses like Hobby Lobby and religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, and HHS’ redefinition of “sex discrimination” in Obamacare to include abortion and possibly sex change operations.

The Republicans, on the other hand, insist on protecting “the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and organizations, especially the faith-based groups.” This includes “the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty” and “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”

On Religious Freedom on Marriage

The Democrats call to “end discrimination on the basis of … gender, sexual orientation, gender identity,” etc. and they promise to “fight for comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding.” Democrats claim that without these special LGBT protections, “a restaurant can refuse to serve a transgender person, and a same-sex couple is at risk of being evicted from their home.” Continuing their undermining of religious freedom, Democrats insist that they only “support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

The Republicans calls for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, “which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” and it sides with the rights of florists, photographers, bakers, and especially adoption agencies who do not wish to violate their consciences or religious beliefs by supporting same-sex marriage. Republicans oppose the Democrats’ “effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square” and “strongly support the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives.” Republicans support “the right of the people to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs and condemn public officials who have proposed boycotts against businesses that support traditional marriage.”

 

EDUCATION

On Transgender Bathrooms in Schools

Following the Obama administration’s redefinition of sex discrimination in Title IX, the Democrats “will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination law to cover LGBT people.” They pledge to “improve school climates” to advance gay and transgender rights, claiming in defense that “LGBT kids continue to be bullied at school.” They specify creating “federal non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans … in areas such as … education.”

Republicans call out the Obama administration’s Title IX transgender bathroom edict, which “impose[s] a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories,” as “at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues.” The GOP Platform denounces the liberal social agenda, which is “determined to reshape our schools—and our entire society—to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions.”

On Teaching the Bible in Public Schools

The Democrats insist on promoting “high-quality STEM classes,” “computer science education,” and to “engage students to be critical thinkers and civic participants.” Yet Democrats also insist on banning prayer from the public sphere even in our public schools.

Recognizing that “a good understanding of the Bible [is] indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry,” the Republicans encourage, on a voluntary basis, for “state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.” The Platform also “affirm[s] the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities.”

On Common Core and School Choice

In their platform, the Democrats “believe that a strong public education system is an anchor of our democracy” for “all children.” “Democrats are also committed to … high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth.” They offer no support for families, even poor ones, who want private or faith-based schooling for their children.

The GOP Platform promises Republicans will “fight for school choice” and “local control of our schools.” It recognizes that “parents” not the government, “are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children.” Therefore Republicans support “home-schooling … private or parochial schools … Education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits.” Republicans also favor “implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it.”

On Sexual Education

The Democrats promote what they wrongly call comprehensive or “evidence-based sex education,” which, in fact, encourages young children and teens to use contraception and engage in risky sexual behavior. Even though the federal government funds condom-based approaches to sex education 16 to 1 compared to Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education, since 1991 the percent of high school students who have never had sex has increased 28%. The reason is largely due to SRA and the fact that parents and teenagers largely support waiting until marriage to have sex.

Recognizing the success of SRA, the Republicans call for “sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach—the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease—empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. ”

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

On the Obama Administration’s International Abortion and Homosexual Rights Agenda

The Democrats “will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe” including repealing “the ‘global gag rule’ [ie. the Mexico City Policy] and the Helms Amendment that bars U.S. assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world.” They also “will promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world … including combating efforts by any nation to infringe on LGBT rights or ignore abuse.”

The GOP Platform opposes the federal government funding abortion overseas, and it calls for restoring the Mexico City Policy, to prevent federal money from going to NGOs like Planned Parenthood or the U.N. population fund, which “provide or promote abortion,” or are complicit in “China’s barbaric program of forced abortion.” It condemns the Obama administration for “impos[ing] on foreign recipients, especially the peoples of Africa, its own radical social agenda while excluding faith-based groups.”

On Genocide of Christians in the Middle-East

The Democrats say, “We are horrified by ISIS’ genocide of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East. We will do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom to worship and believe.”

The Republicans complain that Obama’s “State Department has, belatedly, labeled genocide” the killing of Christians in the Middle East. It continues: “At a time when China has renewed its destruction of churches, Christian home-schooling parents are jailed in parts of Europe, and even Canada threatens pastors for their preaching, a Republican administration will return the advocacy of religious liberty to a central place in its diplomacy, will quickly designate the systematic killing of religious and ethnic minorities a genocide, and will work with the leaders of other nations to condemn and combat genocidal acts.”

On Terrorism

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, the Democrats singled out the LGBT community in response to violence for special protections: “Democrats believe that LGBT rights are human rights and that American foreign policy should advance the ability of all persons to live with dignity, security, and respect regardless of who they are or who they love.” And they insist “we must condemn hate speech that creates a fertile climate for violence,” and that “we will protect transgender individuals from violence.”

The Republicans also oppose any violence on all people, but without dividing victims into identity groups, instead naming the enemy, “radical Islam”: “Radical Islamic terrorism poses an existential threat to personal freedom and peace around the world. We oppose its brutal assault on all human beings, all of whom have inherent dignity. The Republican Party stands united with all victims of terrorism and will fight at home and abroad to destroy terrorist organizations and protect the lives and fundamental liberties of all people.”

 

MILITARY

On Social Engineering in the Military

The Democrats cheer the “repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and claim without evidence that “our military is strongest” when it includes “people of all … sexual orientations and gender identities,” including transgender people, ie. those with gender dysphoria.

The GOP Platform insists, on the contrary, “We reject the use of the military as a Platform for social experimentation and will not accept or continue attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness. We believe that our nation is most secure when the president and the administration prioritize readiness, recruitment, and retention rather than using the military to advance a social or political agenda. Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”

On Women in the Military

Democrats claim “our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world” yet Democrats in Congress want to force women to have to register for the draft. Democrats also want to “make certain that the VA provides … women with full and equal treatment, including reproductive health services” which includes abortion.

The Republican Platform opposes “compulsory national service and Selective Service registration of women for a possible future draft.” It also “reiterate[s] our support for both the advancement of women in the military and their exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions.” Republicans in Congress have repeatedly sought to protect our military hospitals from being turned into abortion clinics.

On the Religious Freedom of Chaplains

Democrats emphasize “we must condemn hate speech that creates a fertile climate for violence” and claim that “our military is strongest when people of all … sexual orientations, and gender identities are honored.”

In light of “attempts by the Obama Administration to censure and silence … particularly Christians and Christian chaplains,” Republicans “support the rights of conscience of … and will protect the religious freedom of all military members, especially chaplains, and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities. A Republican commander-in chief will also encourage education regarding the religious liberties of military personnel under both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the current National Defense Authorization Act.”

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by FRCA Media Office (Nov. 7, 2018)

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