Don't tax Social Security benefits | Thomas Massie
On May 19, I re-introduced the Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 2552). This bill would assist our struggling middle class by eliminating an unnecessary and unjust double-tax on seniors.
Social Security itself is financed by tax dollars, so forcing senior Americans to list these benefits as taxable income on their tax returns is absurd. This sneaky technique allows Congress to obtain more revenue for the federal government by taxing benefits owed to citizens who have paid into Social Security most of their lives. When Social Security benefits are taxed, they are, of course, reduced for the person who receives the benefit.
As the Congressional Research Service reports, "Until 1984, Social Security benefits were exempt from the federal income tax. The exclusion was based on rulings made in 1938 and 1941 by the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Internal Revenue (the predecessor of the Internal Revenue Service). The 1941 Bureau ruling viewed benefits as being for general welfare and reasoned that subjecting the payments to income taxation would be contrary to the purposes of Social Security."
In other words, the 1941 equivalent of the IRS viewed the taxation of Social Security benefits as being unjust and contrary to the purpose for which Social Security was created.
For over 40 years, then, Social Security benefits remained untouched by tax-happy congressmen. What made Congress change its mind? Well, perhaps the opportunity to obtain more revenue for the federal government was simply too enticing for most lawmakers, who didn't see anything wrong with taxing Social Security benefits to get more money for the government's coffers.
When Congress first implemented the tax in 1984, it set politically palatable levels so as not to affect middle-class retirees. However, because the thresholds for taxing Social Security have not been adjusted for inflation, more and more retirees are now subject to the tax. What was considered a generous retirement income in 1984 is no longer comfortable, so eliminating this tax will benefit increasingly large numbers of Americans.
As the number of retirees forced to pay this tax increases, public awareness of the tax on Social Security benefits will likewise increase. If congressmen are inundated with complaints from their constituents regarding this unfair and unjust tax, surely Congress could find the will to reduce or eliminate it altogether.
As my colleague and fellow co-sponsor Rep. Alex Mooney says, “Seniors have worked hard to earn their Social Security benefits and have already been taxed on their contributions to Social Security. The federal government tax on Social Security is a double-tax and its repeal would provide an immediate increase in benefits for our seniors.”
HR 2552 was originally introduced by Rep. Ron Paul in 2003. Original co-sponsors of the version I introduced this month include Reps. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Rod Blum of Iowa, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Alexander Mooney of West Virginia, Dave Brat of Virginia, Steve Knight of California, Daniel Webster of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona.
The Association of Mature American Citizens supports HR 2552, and says that “To tax the very benefit an individual has been taxed all their life to receive, is not only nonsensical, but it reduces the Social Security benefit millions of seniors rely on in their retirement. This important bill rightly eliminates the income tax levied on Social Security benefits in an effort to stop excessive and unnecessary taxation. AMAC is pleased to offer our organization’s full support to the Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act.”
It is time for Congress to end this tax.
Rep. Thomas Massie is a Republican representing Kentucky's 4th District.