Extending/Expanding Tax Breaks and Protecting Americans in Peril

The Congress at Work series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law; they may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, delayed, lack enough votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses, or vetoed by the president.

Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S. 1)– This bill passed both the House and the Senate on Feb. 11, but was vetoed by the President on Feb. 24. The bill is dead unless Congress can override it.

Clay Hunt SAV Act (H.R. 203) – Named for a Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who killed himself in 2011, this bill is designed to help military veterans transition from active duty. It sponsors a pilot program to repay education loans for psychiatrists who agree to serve the VA, improves veteran access to mental health services, and extends for one year combat veterans’ eligibility for VA hospital care and medical services under certain conditions.

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve 529 plans (H.R. 529)– After President Obama dropped his proposal to tax withdrawals from 529 plans in January, the House Ways and Means committee acted to improve 529 plans by enabling those funds to cover computer expenses, eliminate distribution aggregation requirements, and allow account owners to contribute school refunds to a 529 within 60 days without incurring a tax. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is currently under consideration in the Senate.

America Gives More Act of 2015 (H.R. 644)– This bill would amend the IRS code to permanently extend the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory by a trade or business. The food must be “wholesome,” as defined by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The tax deduction limit is increased from 10 percent to 15 percent of the taxpayer’s aggregate income, and allows a five-year carryover for excess contributions. The bill provides a rule to determine the fair market value of contributions that “will or cannot be sold.” Sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed II (R-NY), this bill passed in the House on Feb. 12 and is currently in the Senate for consideration.

America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 636)– Passed in the house on Feb. 13, this bill would permanently extend the $500,000 depreciable allowance for section 179 property, as well as the $2 million threshold after which the allowance is reduced. Both components would be indexed for inflation for taxable years starting in 2016. The bill also would permanently extend the allowance for computer software and qualified real estate, which includes restaurant, retail, and leasehold improvement properties. Air conditioning and heating units would no longer be excluded from the definition of section 179 property. The reduced period (five years) for S corporation taxation on built-in gains would also be made permanent, among other provisions. Sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), this bill is currently in the Senate for consideration.

Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015 (H.R. 720)– A bill that enjoys bipartisan support, it would require the Department of Homeland Security to verify that all U.S. airports have appropriate plans to respond to security incidents. It would authorize technical support as needed and create a process by which airport best practices for security incident planning, management, and training are identified and shared nationwide. The bill is named for a Transportation Security Officer who was killed in the line of duty at Los Angeles International Airport in 2013. Initially co-sponsored by Reps. John Katko (R-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA), this bill passed in the House on Feb. 10 and is in the Senate for consideration.