As long as the GOP tax law was screwing over blue-state homeowners (i.e., the “right” people), Donald Trump and his minions didn’t seem to care much. But this is one voting bloc he probably doesn’t want to piss off: truckers.
According to a story in Mother Jones, long-haul truck drivers are shaping up to be big losers as a result of the recent tax overhaul, and they’re scattered everywhere — in blue and red states alike.
Last month, Dennis Bridges, who runs an accounting firm just north of Atlanta, had to break bad news to a client. Bridges specializes in doing taxes for truck drivers around the country, and this tax season he’s had to tell dozens of truckers that after years of being able to count on receiving tax refunds, that they in fact would owe thousands of dollars. This particular client from New York owed $4,000. It could have been worse: about 20 percent of Bridges’ trucking clients have owed more than $5,000.
When Bridges’ firm called the driver to deliver the news, the line first went silent. Then the driver “went into a panic,” Bridges recalls. “He was just asking, ‘Where on earth am I going to get the money to pay this thing?’” For years, he had received an annual refund in the ballpark of $1,500.
While many Americans really did receive tax breaks (especially if they’re ungodly rich), there have been plenty of losers, too. (Of course, given the GOP’s eagerness for cutting entitlement spending, it’s becoming clear that the losers will surely outnumber the winners in the long run.)
But among those feeling the pain directly are a segment of voters who, one would think, are inclined to support Trump. And they just got, well, shafted.
The problem? Truckers used to be able to deduct unreimbursed expenses as a per diem tax deduction. That’s gone away, along with potentially thousands of dollars.
Until this year, long-haul drivers, like other workers requiring travel, could claim a set amount of unreimbursed expenses on the road as a per diem tax deduction. In 2017 the IRS set the per diem at $63 per day and allowed such workers to subtract 80 percent of that amount every day they worked on the road from their annual taxable income, on top of their standard deduction and other miscellaneous deductible expenses. A typical long-haul driver spends somewhere from 250 to 300 days a year traveling, according to Rutherford and Bridges, which works out to an average reduction of $15,000 in taxable income. “It was literally money in the bank,” says Bridges.
Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Bridges. The banks will still get that money. This is America. They’re always taken care of.