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Peoria Journal Star - Schock Legislation Tackles College Tax Credits

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Location: Peoria, IL

By Chris Kaergard

As part of his quest to simplify a Byzantine and complicated federal tax code, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock has introduced legislation to streamline college tax credits.

The Peoria Republican rolled out a measure jointly with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that combines all the existing higher education credits into one credit - something Schock said could save as much as $4 billion.

"It's hard enough for adults to figure out the tax code, let alone a kid trying to go to college," he said in an interview last week. "We do (college tax credits) in a very complicated, complex way."

Those extra details make it easier for things to slip through the cracks, including people receiving credits they aren't eligible for. The legislation would make that harder, Schock said, saving up to $550 million a year with that alone.

It would also open the door for people to receive credits who don't get them now.

"If you want to be a welder or (go into the trades), you don't qualify for existing tax credits," he said, indicating the benefits for job recruitment in high-tech industry.

The savings under the legislation will go to help bolster the federal Pell Grant program for future years. Beginning in 2016 the program faces funding difficulties to the tune of several billion dollars if it maintains its current income eligibility levels.

The legislation not only makes it easier for students, parents and financial institutions to keep track of the tax credits - reducing multiple credits with different provisions into one permanent credit of $2,500 a year for four years - it serves Schock's broader goal of removing complexity from the tax code.

"If we can do this with education credits, imagine what we can do with the rest of the code," he said. "Our hope is to build momentum. Bills like this, that Sen. Rubio and I roll out, get people to realize there's significant savings by doing this smarter."

That, he hopes, will help bolster support for a broader rewriting of the code to make it even easier for people to understand and apply. Schock's measure is H.R. 2253.

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