44° Good Afternoon
44° Good Afternoon
OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Who wants a helping of tax reform?

Around this dinner table this holiday, there'll be

Around this dinner table this holiday, there'll be relatives who have reasons to be thankful, and others who don't. Credit: Newsday / Bruce Gilbert

"‘Help me set up the name cards for the Thanksgiving dinner tables, dear. We’re going to have to do it a little bit differently this year than we always have, just to avoid fights. Instead of ‘kids’ and ‘adults’ tables, let’s mark them ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ ”

“I know you don’t like Dad’s family, Mother, but calling them losers . . .”

“No, dear, that’s winners and losers in the GOP tax reform plan, not in knowing how to dress, cook, drive, speak properly and keep their pants buttoned after a third helping of pie.

“Now Aunt Jane and Uncle Frank definitely have to go to the losers’ table. The massive medical expenses from his multiple sclerosis won’t be tax-deductible any more. And Jane is a teacher, so she’s going to lose her deduction for the school supplies she buys her students.

“Your cousin Henry, of course, he’s a double loser. He’s got those college loans from his undergraduate years, the interest on those won’t be deductible any more. And if he goes back to grad school next year like he says — did I tell you he got into Harvard? — he’ll be taxed on the free tuition he gets for teaching and research, that’s like $50,000 a year in income he’ll owe without having seen a dime of actual money.”

“But Mother, we can’t put Henry and Jane together. Remember their terrible argument two years ago when she was volunteering for Hillary and he was phone-banking for John Kasich? She hit him in the head with a yam!”

“That was in the beforetime, Dear, when politics was normal. Now, they’re thick as thieves. They even share a twitter handle, #haveyounodecencysir, and co-produce a video blog. It could use a little less weeping and a lot more bleeping, but overall the content’s not bad.

“And it looks like we’ll have to put cousin Ralph with the losers, too. He runs that charity that provides opioid addiction treatment, but donations are going to dry up to nothing now. With the loss of mortgage, property tax and income tax deductions, only the top 5 percent of earners will keep itemizing, so the contributions won’t be tax-deductible for anyone else, and they won’t be able to give.”

“Mother, we’re probably overthinking this. We have 30 family members here for dinner every year, they all live on Long Island, they all pay huge property taxes and state income tax, and none of them are really rich, except Uncle Phil and Aunt Heather. So they are all going to get crushed by losing their state and local tax deductions, and they all need to go the losers’ table.

“With Phil, his tax rate on his real estate partnerships will be slashed, and his private jet will become tax-deductible. And Heather gets all her money from those stocks her folks left her. So with corporate tax rates slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent, she’s going to be raking it in.”

“OK, but what about Phil and Heather’s kids, Dear? They won’t be tax winners or losers, since neither has ever done a day’s work.”

“They’re huge winners anyway, Mom, since the estate tax that now tops out at 40 percent is going to be eliminated. They’ll be ahead millions, so they’ll be fine sitting with their folks at the winners’ table.

“Honey, if we put everyone but Phil and Heather and their kids at the losers’ table, with all their plates and glasses and cutlery, there won’t be any room for the platters of food.”

“Don’t worry, Mother. We’re going to put all the platters and bowls full of food at the winners’ table, every bit of it by Phil and Heather and their kids. That way there will be plenty of room for all the empty plates at the losers’ table. And they can start getting used to it.”

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.