Senator introduces bill that would give taxpayers $4,000 to take a vacation

Walt Disney World
Security officers staff the entrance at the Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 13, 2016. |

A new bill introduced by Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona is seeking to give $4,000 each to taxpayers so they can take a vacation anywhere in the U.S. at least 50 miles from their primary residence to boost the tourism and hospitality industries that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, known as the "American Tax Rebate and Incentive Program Act" or the American TRIP Act, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish a temporary nonrefundable personal tax credit for travel, hospitality, and entertainment expenses, and for other purposes. The tax credit, however, could only be applied to vacations taken between Dec. 31, 2019, and Jan. 1, 2022.

“The tourism and hospitality industries were among the hardest-hit sectors across the country and their revival is critical to our economic recovery,” McSally said in a release on Monday

“Arizona has lost billions in revenue this year alone due to the pandemic. My legislation will help boost domestic travel and jumpstart the comeback of our hotels, entertainment sectors, local tourism agencies, and the thousands of businesses that make Arizona one of the best places in the world to visit. It will also encourage Americans to safely get out of their homes and discover or rediscover Arizona along with the rest of the amazing destinations our country has to offer after a difficult several months stuck inside. I look forward to working with both sides of the aisle in the Senate and House to restart an important part of the economy by passing this bill,” she added.

In addition to the $4,000 tax credit for individual tax filers, joint filers would qualify for a tax break of $8,000, with an additional $500 credit for dependent children.

Taxpayers who own a second home would only be able to claim expenses related to live entertainment, food and beverage, and transportation. Any expenses related to the dwelling would not qualify.

The bill also calls for a government appropriation of $50 million to help destination marketing organizations promote travel and tourism across the U.S.  

Hospitality industry organizations such as the American Hotel and Lodging Association praised the bill Tuesday as a step in the right direction.

“Thank you @SenMcSallyAZ for your efforts to support jobs in travel & tourism with the introduction of The American TRIP Act. We look forward to working with Congress on efforts to restart the travel industry, boost the economy and bring back hotel jobs,” the organization noted in a tweet.

Some critics of the plan, such as universal basic income advocate and Democratic political adviser Scott Santens, argued that the tax break would only a boon for people who can already afford a vacation.

“On its face, this may sound like a proposal to pay everyone $4,000 to afford a vacation. This is not that. This is about reimbursing those who can already afford to spend $4,000 on a vacation, by cutting their taxes by $4,000 next year as long as they owe over $4,000 in taxes,” he wrote on Twitter.

In April, the U.S. leisure and hospitality industry lost 7.7 million jobs due to government shutdowns of businesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its monthly report. As economic activity began restarting in May, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 1.2 million.

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