The provision that will have the most catastrophic effect on disabled people is the removal of the deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Currently, if your out-of-pocket medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct that from your tax bill. In the Jobs and Tax Cuts Bill, that provision is excised completely.
Depending on individual circumstances, people who pay out-of-pocket for personal care assistants and durable medical equipment would be among those experiencing the most calamitous repercussions. Someone who needs a new power wheelchair to get to work and recreational events may have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars. A caregiver who can only maintain a full-time career if she hires a personal care assistant to provide care for an aging parent may be forced to quit her job. A disabled person who can live independently in the community so long as he has a personal care assistant may have to live in a nursing home instead.
“[Disabled people are] a group at a disadvantage that’s been targeted to raise revenue,” says Thomas Cooke, a professor specializing in tax law at Georgetown University. “The broad sweep of this bill is to cut corporate taxes significantly. Somebody’s got to pay for that reduction. And I’m afraid it’s being paid on the backs of individual taxpayers, including taxpayers with disabilities and medical expenses.”
Another provision that specifically affects disabled people is the elimination of a tax credit granted to businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Businesses that, for example, wish to build a ramp, hire a sign language interpreter, or make their website more accessible can no longer claim this exemption. “It’s disastrous,” Cooke said.
Concurrently, there is a bill pending in the House, H.R. 620, designed to make it harder for disabled people to sue businesses that do not comply with the ADA. Suing is the primary current enforcement mechanism for failures to comply with the ADA.In tandem, the tax bill and H.R. 620 would make it more expensive to comply with ADA and less risky to violate it.