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Black Opening Statement: Markup of H.R. 3393, the “Student and Family Tax Simplification Act”

June 25, 2014

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to speak here today, and for all of your work on behalf of taxpayers across the country.  It’s a well-known fact that the cost of education is climbing, and that for too many, the ability to save and pay for college without ending up under a mountain of debt is simply out of reach.  Today’s broken tax code does little to ease that financial burden or provide a sense of security that education will be a reality in the future.
That’s why, when working with my colleague Mr. Davis as the Chair and Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Committee Education Tax Reform Working Group last year, frustration with the tax code was a common theme we heard.  In fact, over the course of our bipartisan working group meetings, we learned that currently there are 15 different tax breaks for education.  Four are designed to help individuals save prior to becoming a student, nine are available for while the student is in school and two exist for when the student has completed his or her education.  
It was overwhelming when we had tax experts explain it, so it was not difficult to imagine how parents trying to navigate it all, and the 90 pages of IRS instructions, would  simply just toss up their hands and say, “I give up.”  The work Mr. Davis and I did during our time together on the Education Tax Reform Working Group didn’t end when we delivered our report to our colleagues.  Instead, our desire to provide at least some relief from that frustration led the two of us to work to see how we could clean up the code and help families struggling to finance education costs.

That process led us to introduce H.R. 3393, the “Student and Family Tax Simplification Act.”  This legislation consolidates four existing education provisions — the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction — into a single, modernized and strengthened AOTC.  Streamlining the number of education provisions and retooling those that are most effective allows us to simplify the code and reduce some of the confusion that exists today.  As a result, students can spend less time figuring out how to finance the cost of a higher education and more time developing the skills they need to succeed in a knowledge-based economy.  I think we can all agree that it ought to be easier for any family to plan, save and invest in education. 

Our bipartisan bill makes commonsense reforms to make the tax code simpler and fairer when it comes to helping Americans afford the cost of a college education.  So again, I thank the Chairman for bringing this important, bipartisan bill to the committee for markup, and I look forward to advancing this commonsense bill to help families and students.