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Color of Money: GOP tax plan would take away financial lifejacket for seniors

Michelle Singletary on

Many of the people who responded said they weren't looking for a handout, just a helping hand.

"I well realize that new policy changes are never going to make every citizen happy, and some of us may have to suffer to support the majority," wrote Dottie Rogers of St. Louis, Missouri. "Losing this deduction will really be tough. I had to put my husband, a 24-year stroke victim, into a nursing home in July 2016. I am now watching our retirement assets go down at a rapid pace. I wanted to be a responsible individual and not seek out help from the government. But if this deduction goes away, which allowed me to barely break even last year, this will be an additional push down the slide to a zero balance in life savings."

One 78-year-old retiree in North Carolina said the Republican tax bill would make his taxes go up by 23 percent. On his 2016 tax return, he was able to deduct $12,000 in medical expenses.

Linda Warner worries about the financial impact on her 93-year-old mother, who has severe dementia and lives in an assisted-living memory-care facility in Wisconsin. For 2016, Warner said her mother was able to deduct $56,711 in medical expenses, leaving her taxable income of just over $28,000.

"Mom has almost used up her four years of her long-term care insurance benefits," Warner said. "She earns $90,000 a year from retirement annuities and Social Security. Her assisted-living memory-care expenses are about $7,650 a month. As you can see, even someone with a relatively high income for a single person is going to be [hurt] by this tax plan."

In the context of fixing a complicated tax code, it might be easy to dismiss the voices of people who decry that their deduction shouldn't be touched. Once a tax break is given, it can be painfully hard for it to be taken away.

But in this case, a lot of folks would be significantly harmed were Congress to eliminate a financial lifejacket that has helped them stay afloat amid the weight of their medical expenses.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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