Today Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) voted in favor of “The Armed Services Tax Fairness Act,” H.R. 1307, to provide $835 million in tax relief for men and women serving abroad and their families.
“I am proud to support the men and women of the armed services who are working hard to keep our country safe,” said Smith. “Those in the military give so much to preserve the security and prosperity of this country, and they deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their service. This common sense tax relief for members of our military is one way that we can begin to repay their efforts.”
The Armed Services Tax Fairness Act provides tax relief to members of the armed services including provisions to extend the deadline for filing tax returns, exempt from taxes the death gratuity payments for survivors, create a tax deduction (whether or not an individual itemizes) for reservists and members of the National Guard of up to $1500 for travel more than 100 miles from home, and suspend the requirement that uniformed service members must have owned and used a home as a principal residence for at least two of five years to avoid capital gains taxes. The act will save military families $85 million in taxes in 2003 and $835 million over the next decade.
“Now more than ever, our task is to stand behind our courageous men and women in uniform and to stand beside their families. The coming weeks will be difficult for us all, but especially hard on our troops and their families here at home,” said Smith. “I am proud to represent Fort Lewis and McChord, as well as the thousands of military retirees, veterans, military families, and reservists in our area and I will continue to work to ensure their safety, their success and their security – at home and abroad.”
With state-side families firmly in his mind, Smith is currently working on a bill to restore Impact Aid funding, cut in the president’s budget, to assist elementary and secondary schools that teach large numbers of children of military personnel. The funding helps schools, like the Clover Park schools serving Fort Lewis Army Base and McChord Air Force Base families, address relocation and deployment stress issues, increase security and force protection for schools on military installations, and foster partnerships between schools and installations.
The Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) has traditionally been one of tools used to make military service an attractive career option. But we have to do a better job of providing better and more competitive educational benefits for all enlisted military members, and so Smith is working on legislation, similar to the MGIB bills he introduced last year, to extend the MGIB “enrollment period” so that service members have more time to make a decision on whether or not to enroll in the program, provide an enrollment opportunity for military members who declined enrollment in the Veterans Education Assistance Program from December 31, 1976 through July 1, 1985, and allow active-duty service members to transfer their GI benefits to a spouse or child after agreeing to sign up for an additional four years of duty.
“It is critically important that we do all we can to support both our troops overseas and their families here in the states, and unfortunately the president made a huge mistake when he cut funding specifically for schools serving military families while sending parents to fight overseas,” said Smith. “We’re going to work hard to make sure that mistakes like that don’t happen again while we’re fighting this war. Combined with the Armed Services Tax Fairness Act the House passed today, the changes I’m proposing in Impact Aid and to the Montgomery G.I. Bill are a good first step in taking care of our military service members and their families – both during the current conflict and beyond.”