Tax Issues will be Top Priority in Lame Duck and New Congress
The Hearing Aid Tax Credit was originally co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Ryun (R-KS) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) in the 109th Congress. With the new Congress starting in January 2011, the importance of bi-partisan support for the Hearing Aid Tax Credit (HATC) will be critical.
Rep. McCarthy, who championed the legislation as it gained a record 129 co-sponsors in 2009/2010, will return in 2011 to work with a new lead Republican sponsor since current R lead Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) has retired. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is expected to continue working with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and champions such as Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on the Senate Finance Committee to push for Senate action on the bill.
The new Congress will likely focus on efforts to repeal or revise healthcare legislation that was enacted in 2010, and this reportedly will include efforts to repeal or revise the new $20 billion tax on medical devices. Hearing aids were expressly excluded from this tax after a hearing health coalition organized by HIA urged Congress not to impose such a tax.
Given that there is very limited time available in any Lame Duck session, it is unlikely that tax legislation other than extending all or part of the 01/03 tax provisions will be considered. However, it is highly likely that Congress will consider major tax reform issues in 2011/12, and that will present an opportunity for consideration of legislation such as the hearing aid tax credit. As has been the case, federal budget concerns remain the primary obstacle to passage of the HATC, or other similar legislation.
Hearing Aid Tax Credit Reaches 129 Cosponsors
H.R. 1646 / S. 1019 achieved record levels of support in the 111th Congress with 129 House and 10 Senate co-sponsors. Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) is the most recent co-sponsor, having just signed on in October. As was the case after previous Congressional sessions, several HATC champions will not return to Congress in 2011 including Rep Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) who attended an HIA-sponsored AG Bell-NV chapter event with 200 constituents in 2009, and visited an AG Bell Bowling event this year. In addition, a total of 24 co-sponsors either retired or were defeated including 2 co-sponsors on the House Ways and Means Committee (Reps Bob Etheridge, D-NC; and Ginny Brown Waite, R-FL).
As HIA continues to work with its allies in support of the bill, the focus will remain on efforts to develop and reinforce a solid core of “hearing champions” by focusing attention on HIA-sponsored events held by local AG Bell, HLAA and IHS chapters in select Congressional districts.
House and Senate champions played a key role in exempting hearing aids from the Medical Device Tax of 2010, and it is hoped that they will play a key role in enacting the hearing aid tax credit. HIA staff is currently working with AG Bell, HLAA, IHS and others to schedule events for Senator Snowe in Portland, ME; Rep. Dean Heller in Las Vegas, NV; and Rep. Peter Roskam in the Chicago suburbs. We also plan to host other events for HATC champions, and will keep you posted as plans materialize.