On Christmas Day, The Office’s Jenna Fischer posted a long public apology on her Twitter account. Her crime, which was reported breathlessly by Fox News, was having outdated information about a $250 deduction for teachers to buy classroom supplies, a credit that was killed by the House’s version of the tax bill before it came back in reconciliation. “I feel genuinely bad about getting my facts wrong and I’m sorry,” Fischer said. “I did not mean to spread misinformation. I was well-intentioned, but I was behind on my research.”
Fischer was gracious in apologizing, but she’s far from the only one to not know what’s exactly in the tax bill.
A day before Fischer’s apology, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, responded dubiously to a tweet by Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis about the charitable deduction:
Cornyn’s uneasy “I believe” followed a fiasco in which reporting by the International Business Times showed that swing vote Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee (and other key Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump) would benefit from a last minute addition to the bill that allows “owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their “pass-through” income from their taxes.” Corker eventually told the IB Times that he “never saw the actual text.” He voted for it anyway.
Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 22, and people are still trying to figure out what’s in it. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that people were turning out in droves to pay their property taxes for 2018 in order to take advantage of a full deduction that’s being scaled back by the new tax law; the IRS announced on Wednesday, however, that option was only available “under certain circumstances.” The Post reported that the IRS’ decision “raised the prospect that local governments could come under pressure to refund millions of dollars.”
On top of all of this, a New York Times report from Wednesday said that companies are already on the hunt for loopholes, of which there are sure to be many:
The bill, for example, lowers the taxes on so-called pass-through income, which is earned by partnerships and other types of businesses. Congress sold the provision as a way to help smaller companies. But lawmakers added language that allowed big real estate developers to benefit. The result could be a tax break for any company that buys and operates a building for its business.
The new law is also supposed to encourage companies to make investments in the United States. But the rules were written in such a way that they could give businesses an incentive to keep their money in foreign countries and build factories abroad.
The reason that there’s so much confusion, of course, is that the 1,000-plus page bill was hastily drafted with no concern as to what the public thought about it. Corker, a Trump critic whose vote helped to seal the bill’s passage in the Senate, told IB Times in mid-December that all he had read was a “two-page summary” of the bill.
Conservatives on Capitol Hill and in the White House used pure power politics to get this horrifically shitty law passed. Approving an overhaul of the U.S. tax code that no one knows much about is the problem, not Jenna Fischer’s Twitter account.