Sen. Doug Jones introduces legislation last week: Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act and Assistance for Farmers Harmed by Tariffs on Exports Act

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and other bipartisan senators introduced legislation last week providing tax relief for survivor benefits received by children who have lost a parent as a result of their service in the military. A provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly raised the taxes on these survivor benefits to rates as high as 37%. The bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act would reverse this provision in the tax bill.
Gold Star families who received a surprise tax hike on their children’s benefits in their 2018 tax bills are facing this “Kiddie Tax” because they are also subject to what’s called the “Widow’s Tax.” Senator Jones recently introduced legislation to repeal the “Widow’s Tax,” a law that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full survivor benefits from both the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). As a direct result of the Widow’s Tax, Gold Star parents often put their DoD benefits in their children’s names in order to collect the full survivor benefits they are due and have also paid for in the form of annuities for a voluntary DoD life insurance program.
“Gold Star families have given more to our country than most of us could ever imagine. While we can never repay their immense sacrifices, we do make a solemn commitment to care for them. Unfortunately, thousands of these widows and widowers are currently denied the full benefits they’re due, which forces many to resort to putting some of these benefits in their children’s names. To significantly raise taxes on those children’s benefits is unconscionable, and I am proud to join with my colleague Senator Cassidy to propose legislation to correct this egregious mistake. It is a first step toward honoring our commitment and making these families whole financially,” Senator Jones said, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Assistance for Farmers Harmed by Tariffs on Exports Act
Jones also introduced legislation last week that would offer financial and technical support to help farmers and producers recover losses caused by the President’s ongoing trade war with China. The Assistance for Farmers Harmed by Tariffs on Exports Act will offer Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to those hurt by China’s retaliatory tariffs.
TAA was created in 1962 to provide direct financial and technical assistance to workers impacted by changes in global trade. In 2002, the TAA program was expanded to include assistance to growers, producers, and fishermen if they experienced hardship as a result of changing commodity markets from increased imports. Unfortunately, the current TAA program provides no help to farmers whose exports are hurt by changing policies and retaliatory tariffs triggered by our own government’s actions.
“These tariffs are taxes and they’re hurting our farmers especially,” Senator Jones said. “Not only are they trying to get back on their feet after natural disasters like Hurricane Michael, but they are facing a double-whammy from the President’s trade war with China. I agree we need to punish bad actors like China that take advantage of the United States, particularly when it comes to issues like steel pricing and intellectual property theft, but this trade war has so far only hurt hard-working Americans. I’m hopeful that my legislation will help lessen the pain these tariffs have caused our farmers, while at the same time I’ll continue to urge an end to this pointless trade war.”
Senator Jones has been a vocal advocate on behalf of the American farmers, workers, and consumers who have been hurt by the new taxes resulting from the President’s trade war. He has taken a number of actions over the past year to mitigate the negative effects of imposed and threatened tariffs, including:

  • introducing bipartisan legislation to help family farms reorganize after falling on hard times as bankruptcy rates among American farmers near record highs;
  • partnering with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to urge the President to announce the second round of agricultural tariffs trade assistance;
  • leading a bipartisan effort to get answers from the Commerce Department about whether imports of autos and auto parts threaten national security;
  • introducing a bipartisan bill to reform and strengthen the national security tariff process in response to threatened national security tariffs on autos and auto parts; and
  • leading a letter with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to the Commerce Department to urge the administration to reconsider its threatened 25% auto tariffs.

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