Van Hollen, Portman, Davis and Schweikert Introduce Legislation to Fix the Inequity of the U.S. Opportunity Tax Credit


November 17, 2022

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Reps. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and David Schweikert (R-Arizona) reintroduced their bipartisan legislation and bicameral to address systematic injustices within the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC is the main tax credit available to students wishing to pursue higher education; however, students with previous drug felony convictions are definitely not eligible to use the credit. This retrograde requirement makes the successful reintegration of those who have served their sentence more difficult by limiting their ability to advance their studies and pursue a career. The Eliminating Discrimination and Creating Corridors to Expand Members’ Student Success (ED Access Act) Act, originally introduced in 2019, would address this inequity by repealing the lifetime ban. Senators Van Hollen and Portman were joined in introducing this bill in the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). In the House of Representatives, Representatives Davis and Schweikert were joined in introducing this legislation by Representatives Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).

“The American Opportunity Tax Credit has helped millions of students gain access to higher education. But for people previously convicted of a drug-related crime — who have served their time and are working to get back on track — that’s not an option. This refusal prevents many people from having a second chance to embark on a positive path. Our Access to Education Act would right this wrong and provide these students with crucial support to obtain a post-secondary education,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“While we have come a long way over the past decade in implementing meaningful criminal justice reform, there is still work to be done,” said Senator Portman. “That’s why I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to reform a decades-old tax code provision that discriminates against convicted drug felons and will allow more Americans to use the US tax credit. to pursue an undergraduate degree. The mistakes of your past should not define your future, and this bill will help more people returning from correctional institutions to get a second chance and realize their God-given potential.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue a higher education, and the U.S. Opportunity Tax Credit is a great way to do that,” said Senator Merkley. “Even after serving their sentence, countless Americans face obstacles to reintegrating into society, including being permanently ineligible for this tax credit, which has serious implications for their education and future. The ED ACCESS Act is an important step forward in removing this barrier, putting the US Opportunity Tax Credit within reach so these Americans can get an education and set themselves on the path to a better life. , for the benefit of themselves, their families and all. our communities.

“A fair tax code means giving Americans who have served their sentences a chance to pursue higher education and a promising career path,” said the senator Wyden. “The bipartisan ED ACCESS Act of 2022 will repeal the ban on students with prior drug trafficking convictions from being eligible for the U.S. Opportunity Tax Credit, bringing the tax credit in line with other higher education support programs. It’s a common sense solution and I’m ready to cross the finish line.

“Encouraging the education of people with backgrounds is a smart and worthwhile investment of taxpayers’ money,” said Representative Davis. “This bipartisan bill would promote education, successful reintegration, economic well-being and labor market participation – which is why dozens of conservative and progressive organizations strongly support this bill.”

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation benefits students and ensures that our tax code treats all taxpayers fairly. This is an essential reform to provide opportunities for people wishing to pursue higher education. I am proud to introduce American Opportunity Tax Credit alongside my colleagues and help build a brighter future for all Americans,” said Representative Schweikert.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Emergency Services Access Act. This law corrects a serious inequity in a program designed to help people pursue higher education. Formerly incarcerated individuals who wish to improve their job and career prospects are currently excluded from this lifetime tax credit. If we are serious about giving people the tools to succeed in life, we cannot allow such barriers to remain,” Rep. Horsford said.

“Currently, some Americans who leave our criminal justice system and seek to improve their lives by pursuing higher education cannot access the U.S. Opportunity Tax Credit. I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation and bicameral, which will remove this barrier so that these people can change course and pursue a better future. said Rep. Wenstrup.

This legislation is supported by a large and diverse group of organizations including: Americans for Prosperity, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), College & Community Fellowship, Due Process Institute, Drug Policy Alliance, Education Trust, Health in Justice Action Lab at Northeastern University School of Law, Justice Roundtable, Legal Action Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Social Workers, National HIRE Network, Prison Fellowship, R Street Institute, Safer Foundation, and Young Invincibles.

The text of the law is available here. A backgrounder on the bill can be found here.


About Author

Comments are closed.