Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – released a letter outlining its position on key issues in the pending tax legislation being considered by a U.S. House-Senate Conference Committee.
Orthodox Union Advocacy Center Chairman Jerry Wolasky and Executive Director Nathan Diament wrote to Senator Orrin Hatch, Representative Kevin Brady and other members appointed to the House-Senate Conference Committee making the following key points:
- While the OU is deeply disappointed that a provision that would have made a portion of tuition payments tax deductible was stricken from the Senate bill just hours before the Senate vote, the OU urges the conferees to ensure the tax legislation they propose contain the provisions – contained in both the House and Senate versions of the bill – that expand the use of 529 Education Savings Plans to pay for K-12 education expenses, including those at non-public schools. The OU further urges the conferees to modify that provision to be even more supportive of parents’ educational choices for their children.
- The OU urges conferees to preserve the tax exempt treatment of “qualified tuition reductions” (QTR). Many nonpublic schools – including the Jewish community’s day schools – utilize QTRs as an essential element to recruit and retain teachers to work in their schools by offering tuition discounts for the teachers’ children to attend the school. Making those discounts taxable would be harmful to the nonpublic K-12 sector. While the House passed version of the tax bill would eliminate the QTR deduction, the Senate version preserves it. The OU urges the conferees to adopt the Senate’s position.
- The OU urges conferees to include an “above the line” deduction for charitable contributions in the final tax legislation. There is concern across the nonprofit sector that the doubling of the standard deduction and disincentive to itemize will negatively impact charities. Providing donors with a tax deduction for contributions even if they don’t itemize will support America’s charities and their essential mission.
- The OU urges conferees not to include a repeal of the “Johnson Amendment” in the final tax legislation. The House passed version included a repeal of the rule prohibiting tax exempt entities from making political endorsements while the Senate version did not contain this repeal. The OU – and its constituent congregations – have long opposed the repeal of the Johnson Amendment as it insulates our synagogues and clergy from inappropriate political pressure and divisiveness.
OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“The pending tax legislation will certainly have significant impact on all Americans – including our constituents. I am proud of how the OU Advocacy team has engaged with all the key policymakers on the issues of importance to our community throughout the tax legislation process. While we are disappointed our primary proposal was derailed at the last moment, we are committed to continuing our advocacy for our community and constituents.”