AOA Call-to-Action—Final Tax Bill Must Include AOA-Backed Student, Small Business Provisions

The AOA has been working 24/7/365 to influence the tax reform package making its way through Congress. Now, with lawmakers in the process of putting the finishing touches on the sweeping legislation, AOA is urging doctors and students to take action today as now is the time to make optometry's voice heard.

While not taking a formal position on the larger tax package, the AOA has been working to have an impact on the legislation in the event that it does advance. Early in the process, the AOA and its partners were able to secure some positive provisions, including beefed-up Section 179 expensing as well as fairer treatment for new doctors of optometry and optometry students in the form of successfully pushing back against treating graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and repealing student loan interest deductions.

Later in the process, following a meeting between Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and AOA Trustee Ron L. Benner, O.D., the U.S. Senate approved language that would provide relief for many small-business optometry practices. The Senate-passed bill would lower taxes on "pass-through" filers by allowing a 23 percent deduction for certain businesses. The House bill would prohibit those providing professional services (e.g., lawyers, doctors, etc.) from qualifying for the deduction, but the Senate bill would allow it by providing an AOA-backed exception for doctors and others with taxable incomes under $500,000 (married) and $250,000 (single).

Along with urging lawmakers to preserve the expensing and student provisions, AOA members can urge lawmakers to ensure that the Senate-passed "pass-through" language is included in any final tax package. Priority lawmakers are those appointed to the House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences between the two tax bills, including:

Sens. Hatch (R-Utah), Enzi (R-Wyo.), Murkowski (R-AK), Cornyn (R-Texas), Thune (R-S.D.), Portman (R-Ohio), Scott (R-S.C.), Toomey (R-Pa.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.), Murray (D-Wash.), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Carper (D-Del.), and Reps. Brady (R-Texas), Roskam (R-Ill.), Nunes (R-Calif.), Black (R-Tenn.), Noem (R-S.D.), Neal (D-Mass.), Levin (D-Mich.), Doggett (D-Texas), Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Castor (D-Fla.).

AOA members can take action by:

  1. Calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121. Ask by name for your U.S. House member or one of your senators. If you do not know your members of Congress, you can locate them online here: house.gov and senate.gov. The operator will connect you with a staffer in your lawmaker's office.

  2. When speaking to the staffer, identify yourself as a doctor of optometry who lives in XXX and practices in XXXXXX and that you wanted to add your thoughts to the ongoing tax bill debate.  

    Afterward, use this draft script: "As the tax bill advances, I would urge that any final package include language that would provide fairer treatment for optometry students and new doctors of optometry while also ensuring tax relief for small-business doctor of optometry practices.

    Specifically, I support Senate-passed provisions that would not treat graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and not repeal student loan interest deductions. I also support a Senate-passed provision that would allow small-business doctor of optometry practices and other "specified service trade or businesses" to qualify for the pass-through deduction if the filer is within a certain threshold amount. This would help better ensure fair treatment for small businesses across America in light of proposed cuts to corporate tax rates. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I urge that these student and small-business provisions be included in any final tax package."

  3. Contact Matt Willette mwillette@aoa.org of the AOA for more information or to provide an update regarding your outreach to your U.S. House and Senate members.