By James Harrison
Legislation introduced by Rep. Scott DesJarlais unanimously cleared the House Wednesday, as lawmakers voted 400-0 to approve the Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act.
The bill, introduced by DesJarlais in May, prevents the IRS from collecting taxes on any amount of college loans that are forgiven following the death of an active service member. It was named after Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Andrew P. Carpenter of Columbia, Tenn., who was killed in February of last year while serving in Afghanistan.
Following his death, a student loan taken out by Carpenter from a private lender was forgiven. But Carpenter's family soon received a tax bill from the IRS totaling more than $1,000, which said that the forgiven loan factored into the family's gross taxable income for that year.
In remarks on the House floor prior to the vote, DesJarlais said learning of the tax on Carpenter's family was "a rude introduction" to the brokenness of the tax system.
"The legislation before us today attempts to shield America's families from ever having the IRS add to their loss by callously presenting them a tax bill," DesJarlais said. "The only thing these parents should receive is a flag--and the admiration of the American people."
If enacted into law, the measure would have a retroactive effective date of Oct. 7, 2001--the start date of military operations in Afghanistan. It is the fourth piece of legislation to have been introduced by DesJarlais since he was elected to represent Tennessee's 4th District in 2010.
The bill does not make it mandatory for private loan companies to forgive the loans of soldiers killed in active duty. The practice is already in place for federal student loans, as part of the Higher Education Act.
Following the bill's passage, DesJarlais issued a statement saying he was "incredibly grateful" for the support received by his fellow lawmakers. The congressman then offered his thanks to Carpenter's family, who first brought the issue of the tax on their son's loans to his attention.
"I want to thank the Carpenters both for bringing this issue to my attention and for raising such an extraordinary young man," DesJarlais said. "In learning about Andrew throughout this ordeal, I've come to know a selfless individual who loved his country. He is truly a hero. Passing the Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act is the least we can do in repaying the debt we owe to Lance Cpl. Carpenter."