Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Va.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would fix a provision in the Republican tax plan that increased taxes for Gold Star families.
Titled the “Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act,” the legislation aims to treat survivor benefits provided by the Defense Department as earned income for the children of deceased military officials. The current tax overhaul championed by President Donald Trump lists the benefits for children as “unearned income,” and therefore is subject to higher taxation.
In order to receive both the Defense Department’s Survivor Benefits Plan and the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program payments, military families placed the former benefit in a child’s name, to avoid what has become known as the “Widow’s Tax” for double dipping. While the benefits allocated to children were previously taxed at the parent’s rate, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act instead interpreted them as a trust or estate—a measure which increased taxes on benefits by as much as 37 percent in some cases.
“My kids are owing the government back money, that the government gave them, because their dad died, and my kids have to pay it back,” Theresa Jones, the widow of a fallen Navy Lieutenant Commander Landon Jones, recently told Task & Purpose. “And every year this comes around and it’s just this reminder of this tragedy, and it’s literally like throwing salt in the wound.”
Luria’s legislation is not the only bill intended to lift some of the financial burdens from Gold Star families. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is cosponsoring legislation to eliminate the Widow’s Tax in its entirety, and allow spouses to collect the benefits they’re entitled to without being penalized.
“Ending the military Widow’s Tax is long overdue,” Jones said on Tuesday after the bill received its 61st sponsor to ensure a Senate vote. “These families have sacrificed more for our nation than most people can ever fully appreciate, and they deserve to get the full survivor benefits to which they are entitled and have paid for. This is an important milestone in the fight to end the Widow’s Tax, and I am hopeful we can continue to build on this progress and get our bill to the president’s desk this year.”