NAICU Washington Update

Education Tax Benefits Examined at House Ways and Means Roundtable; Belmont University Among Participants

April 11, 2013

The higher education tax benefits were discussed at a House Ways and Means Committee working group roundtable held April 9. The House committee, as part of its examination of tax reform options, has designated 11 working groups to study a wide variety of current tax benefits and their possible simplification, consolidation, or other modification. The Education and Family Benefits working group, chaired by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), with Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) serving as the ranking minority member, is the group tasked to examine higher education benefits.

A few weeks prior to the roundtable, staff from the offices of Reps. Black and Davis invited representatives from the higher education community, including NAICU, to discuss current tax benefits, ideas for simplification, and any concerns or suggestions for reform. That meeting led to a handful of college presidents and campus representatives being invited to address those issues at the April roundtable.

Jason Rogers, vice president for administration and university counsel at Belmont University in Tennessee, was invited to speak at the roundtable by Rep. Black. Rogers addressed the current array of higher education tax benefits and how they assist Belmont students at every stage of their education. He advocated for maintaining the three-tiered system of benefits that assist families who are saving for college, paying for college, and repaying student loans. Rogers also suggested that the variety of deductions and credits currently in place to help with tuition payments could be consolidated and simplified if the most generous benefit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, were enhanced and made permanent. A permanent AOTC expanded to offer benefits beyond the first four years of college attendance would negate the need for the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits, as well as the tuition deduction, Rogers maintained.

Other speakers at the roundtable included representatives from Cornell University, Tennessee State University, the community college community, the American Council on Education, and a college savings plan administrator.

After the roundtable session, the working group also met with representatives of Washington-based think tanks and advocates of additional Section 529 college savings plans to get their perspectives on the tax benefits.

The working group will likely make recommendations to the full committee based on its meetings. It is unclear whether there will be additional activity – further roundtables or hearings – or whether legislation will result from the discussions.

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