The University Record, April 16, 2001

Tax legislation could help U-M community

By Mike Waring
U-M Washington, D.C., Office

Much of the talk in Washington so far this year has focused on tax reductions, in particular, income tax cuts promoted by both President Bush and lawmakers.

But while this gets the most attention in the media, some other tax issues of interest to the University and its students also are making progress. The enactment of any of this legislation could benefit U-M, its employees, students and their families in a number of ways.

The Senate Finance Committee recently approved legislation that would make a number of key changes in tax law. Specifically, that legislation would:

  • Permanently extend employee educational assistance benefits (so-called Section 127) and restore the eligibility of those benefits for graduate study.

  • Increase the annual limits on education savings account deposits from $500 to $2,000. This program allows families to save for education with pretax dollars. A controversial part of that provision would allow withdrawals for elementary and secondary education expenses, as well as for college expenses.

  • Expand the student loan interest deduction by eliminating the 60-month limit and raising the income levels for eligibility. This would reduce the cost of such loans for students and their families.

  • Make tax-free two narrowly targeted federal scholarship programs—National Health Service and Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions scholarships.

  • Enable private college and university tuition savings plan to be eligible for tax-favored treatment. State-run plans already have this benefit.

    Meanwhile, Michigan Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) has reintroduced legislation in the House that would similarly extend employee education assistance benefits. Six other Michigan lawmakers have co-sponsored his legislation. It appears that the House Ways and Means Committee will not act on any specific education tax bills but will deal with these issues as part of conference committees on broader tax measures passed by the House and Senate.

    In related issues, legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress that would allow taxpayers 70 1/2 and older to donate part of their IRAs directly to charities or other nonprofit institutions such as universities, or to make a contribution in the form of a charitable gift annuity.

    Pension reform legislation is brewing that could benefit University employees. Legislation in the House and Senate would increase annual IRA contribution limits for all workers 50 and older, increase maximum contributions to 401(k) plans and other pensions, allow for “catch-up” pension contributions, and allow for pension portability.

    For more information, contact Mike Waring or Cindy Bank in the Washington, D.C., office, (202) 554-0578, mwaring@umich.edu or bankc@umich.edu.