Firefighters, jet owners, school teachers—the unexpected winners and losers in the GOP tax bills

Eliminating deductions for local taxes would hit budgets that fund firefighters.
Eliminating deductions for local taxes would hit budgets that fund firefighters.
Image: Reuters/Jim Urquhart
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The US moved closer to reforming its federal tax system this week, after the House of Representatives passed one version of a bill, and the Senate Finance Committee voted to let another version proceed to a full vote.

The Senate bill will need to pass Senate by a simple majority, and then be reconciled with the House’s before it goes to the White House to be signed into law. While there’s no guarantee that any bill will pass Senate, here are America’s unexpected winners and losers if what’s on the table becomes law.

Potential losers

Firefighters and police officers: These “first responders” are mostly paid from state and local budgets, which are funded by local taxes. Currently, US taxpayers can deduct the state and city taxes they pay from their stated income on their federal taxes. The House bill caps that deduction, the Senate bill wipes it out altogether.

Eliminating the deduction could spur states and cities to lower local tax rates, leaving less for local budgets. In a letter to Congress, unions representing half a million first responders asked elected officials to keep the state and local tax deductions.

Elementary school teachers: The US’s public schools are so cash-strapped that teachers often buy supplies themselves for their classrooms. The House bill would make those supplies no longer tax-deductible.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, benefits teachers by doubling the deduction that they could take to $500.

Graduate students: The House bill would raise taxes on people getting advanced degrees by as much as 400%, by taxing the tuition breaks they receive in exchange for teaching or working on research projects.

The Senate tax plan would not tax tuition breaks as income, essentially leaving things the way they are now.

Asian-Americans: The US’s approximately 20 million Asian-Americans could be especially hard hit, Jeff Yang writes, because they’re more likely to have advanced college degrees, and to live in high-tax states like California, New York, and Hawaii.

Potential winners

Private jet owners: The Senate bill would allow people who own private jets to deduct the payments they make to maintain and store the aircraft from their taxes.

There is no such deduction in the House bill.

Heirs set to inherit more than $5.5 million. The “estate tax”  currently taxes estates worth over $5.5 million about one-sixth of their value after the estate-holder dies, cutting the amount that kids in very wealthy families can inherit. They represent just 0.2% of the population.

Both the House and Senate bill would make it harder to tax very wealthy inheritors. According to the House bill, the estate tax would only kick in at inheritances of $11 million or more, and the tax would be repealed entirely in 11 years. The Senate bill raises the taxable level to $10 million.

Wealthy people with creative accountants. Both bills would repeal the “Alternative Minimum Tax,” which was designed to make sure that rich people who funnel their income through financial vehicles designed to lower their tax rate still pay a base amount. Repealing that tax would have saved Trump alone tens of millions of dollars in tax in 2005.

Debate will start on the Senate bill the week after Thanksgiving.