Feature:Opinion

The five tax hikes in Obamacare that most hurt seniors

Photo of Grover Norquist
Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform
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      Grover Norquist

      Mr. Norquist, a native of Massachusetts, has been one of Washington's most effective issues management strategists for over two decades.

      Mr. Norquist is president of <a href="http://www.atr.org/">Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)</a>, a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state and local levels. ATR organizes the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. To date, 172 House members, and 34 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 7 governors and over 1100 state legislators have taken the pledge.

      Mr. Norquist also:

      * Serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association of America.
      * Serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union.
      * Serves as a Contributing Editor to the American Spectator Magazine.
      * Serves as president of the American Society of Competitiveness.
      * Authored the book Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives

      In the past, Mr. Norquist served as:

      * A commissioner on the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce.
      * A commissioner on the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service.
      * Economist and chief speech-writer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (1983-1984).
      * Campaign staff on the 1988, 1992, 1996 Republican Platform Committees.
      * Executive director of the National Taxpayers’ Union.
      * Executive director of the College Republicans.

      In the words of Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist is "the person who I regard as the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of the anti-tax efforts and of conservative grassroots activism in America . . . He has truly made a difference and truly changed American history."

      P.J. O'Rourke says, "Grover Norquist is Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupcon of Madame Defarge."

      Arianna Huffington calls Norquist "The dark wizard of the Right's anti-tax cult"

      Mr. Norquist holds a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, both from Harvard University. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Samah and his daughters, Grace, and Giselle.

The jobs-killing Obamacare law contains 20 new or higher taxes on American families and employers. Many of these tax increases fall on families making less than $250,000 — a direct violation of candidate Obama’s promise not to raise “any form” of taxes on these families. In less than a week, the second anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law will take place. The Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare next week.

Out of the 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare, there are five that fall most directly on seniors.

The first is the excise tax penalty for failure to comply with Obamacare’s individual mandate. Many seniors face a coverage gap between retirement and Medicare eligibility. Obamacare raises taxes on these younger seniors by punishing them if they don’t purchase “qualifying health insurance.” Set to go into effect in 2014, the excise tax penalty for mandate non-compliance will in 2016 rise to 2.5% of adjusted gross income for a senior couple (or $1,390 for those making less than $55,600).

Why does Obamacare raise taxes on seniors just as they are entering retirement? Many of these seniors will face this “stick” but find themselves with too much income to qualify for the “carrot” of tax credits to purchase Obamacare health insurance plans in an exchange. Many will be forced to keep working just to avoid paying this tax.

The second tax hike on seniors is the so-called “Cadillac Plan” excise tax. Starting in 2018, Obamacare imposes a whopping 40% excise tax on high-cost (“Cadillac plan”) health insurance plans. This is defined for seniors as a plan whose premiums exceed $29,450 for a family plan, or $11,500 for a single senior. Seniors often face higher costs in health insurance premiums due to chronic health conditions and other risk factors. This tax will fall almost exclusively on the seniors with the greatest health insurance needs.

Third is Obamacare’s dividends tax hike. Starting in 2013, the top tax rate on dividends is scheduled to rise from 15% today to 39.6%. In addition, Obamacare imposes a dividend “surtax” of 3.8% on families making more than $250,000 per year. That would create a top dividend tax rate of 43.4%, nearly triple today’s rate. This will fall very hard on seniors. According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis of IRS data, 70% of households over age 55 receive dividend income. Seventy-one percent of all dividends paid flow to these households. To raise taxes on dividends is to raise taxes on seniors.

Then there’s the medical device excise tax. Obamacare imposes a new excise tax on medical device manufacturers in 2013. These companies will surely build the cost of this new tax into the price of what they sell. Who buys medical devices? Who buys pacemakers, wheelchairs and other costly medical devices? Seniors do.

Finally, Obamacare reduces allowable medical itemized deductions. Under current law, medical itemized deductions can be claimed on tax returns, but they must be reduced by 7.5% of adjusted gross income. Obamacare increases this “haircut” to 10% of AGI in 2013. This will mean that millions of Americans claiming medical itemized deductions will no longer be able to. The same IRS data as above tells us that 60% of all tax filers claiming this deduction are over age 55.

All of the tax increases in Obamacare will hurt seniors, but these five fall on them directly and hardest.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and co-author (with John Lott) of Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.