House Backs Troops' Tax Breaks

From Associated Press

Going beyond the usual resolutions of support for U.S. troops in combat, the House voted unanimously Thursday to ease the tax burdens of all American military personnel and their families.

Burial payments, child-care benefits and housing assistance for men and women in uniform all would become tax-free under the bill, passed by a 422-0 vote. The Senate Finance Committee cleared a similar bill last month, and supporters expect swift approval by the full Senate.

The bill "recognizes and provides relief for some of the hardships endured by members of our armed forces during their service to protect our freedoms," said Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.).

In a show of support for troops marching into war in the Persian Gulf region, the House voted to make tax-free the $6,000 burial benefit paid to families of soldiers killed in action. Congress doubled the benefit during the 1991 war against Iraq, but half is still subject to taxes.

The thousands of reserve forces mobilized for action would get new compensation for their transportation expenses. They could recoup up to $1,500 in costs related to overnight stays more than 100 miles from home if the bill becomes law.

Soldiers away from home would be exempt from laws that require people to live in their homes for two of five years to qualify for capital gains tax breaks when houses are sold.

The Senate version of the bill also gives income tax relief to families of the astronauts killed on the Columbia space shuttle. On Wednesday, the House passed benefits for the astronauts' families in separate legislation, which also included a variety of business tax breaks and new restrictions on individuals who renounce their U.S. citizenship to avoid paying taxes.

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