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Congress should stop taxing dead soldiers debts
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In February 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter was shot and killed while on patrol in Afghanistan.

A lending company subsequently forgave the student loan taken out by Carpenter, a native of Columbia, Tenn., but now his parents are on the hook for a $28,000 tax bill.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) is outraged. He is sponsoring a bill that would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from taxing loans that are forgiven after service members die.

The Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act is one bill that all members of both parties can and should support.

“It is a fitting way to fix a glaring problem in our tax code, while paying tribute to the memory of Lance Cpl. Carpenter,” DesJarlais said. “His family has experienced the pain of losing their son, husband and father. Hopefully, if passed, this measure will in some way ease this burden.”

Three years before he died, Carpenter, 27, took out a $20,000 student loan. His parents co-signed.

A member of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Carpenter was on patrol in southern Afghanistan when he was shot by a sniper. He died of his wounds in Germany on Feb. 19, 2011.

The lending company forgave the student loan after being notified of Carpenter’s death.

The IRS, however, treated the forgiven loan as it always does: as income.

Student loans backed by the federal government are forgiven for deceased veterans. Private lenders have the option of waiving student loans for them. The Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act would not change that.

The remedy would be applied to the IRS. When credit card balances, student loans and other types of debt are forgiven, the IRS considers the amount owed to be taxable income. In the case of people who are deceased, the heirs — or, as in Carpenter’s case, co-signers — are responsible for the tax. The bill essentially would forgive the tax owed.

The bill would be retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001, so it would cover all veterans who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DesJarlais’ bill won’t bring Carpenter back. His parents and wife still will grieve. But passage of the bill will give them a small amount of relief and would represent a token of appreciation for their sacrifice.

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