Bill Provides Much Needed Update to Generation-Old Tax Code Provision as Economy Recovers from the COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Tim Scott (R-SC) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would expand educational assistance programs to help ensure that employers have the tools to hire and retrain workers. The Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would increase the amount of tax-free educational assistance that employees in workforce development programs can receive from their employers, and would modernize the program to cover expenses for tools and technology that are required for educational programs.
“To recover from this pandemic, we must invest in helping to ensure that workers have the skills that they need for today’s jobs. I’m glad to be working closely with my Republican and Democratic colleagues and business leaders to do exactly that by making it easier for employers to invest in their employees,” said Senator Hassan. “This legislation would make it easier and more affordable for businesses in New Hampshire and across the country to both invest in their employees and meet their workforce needs. This long overdue change would help make sure that workers and businesses can thrive in today’s 21st century economy.”
“As we emerge from the pandemic, Hoosier businesses and workers are left picking up the pieces," said Senator Young. "The bipartisan Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would temporarily boost this important education assistance tax provision to invest in our post-pandemic workforce development needs and equip workers with the right skills for high-demand jobs as our public health and economic recovery continues.”
“As we recover from this pandemic, we need to make sure our economy works for everyone. That means making significant investments in our workforce so that Nevadans and all Americans have the skills they need to get good-paying jobs. This has been a top priority for me in the Senate, and I’ll keep working across the aisle to push for commonsense solutions that lift up our workers and bolster our nation’s economic recovery,” said Senator Cortez Masto.
“Employer-provided educational assistance is an important tool to facilitate up-skilling and retraining that is so critical to a high-performing and agile workforce,” said Susan Huard, interim Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH). “It also contributes to employees feeling valued and prepared for growth opportunities in their employment. As skills needs continue to evolve within today’s workplaces, upskilling is a key part of economic growth and individual advancement.”
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and our ever-changing workforce needs, the expansion of Section 127 is a critical tool for employers to recruit and retain talent while building an educated workforce,” said Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “SNHU is committed to advancing social and economic mobility, and the modernization of this bill is an important mechanism for removing barriers to opportunity and increasing access to education for America’s workers.”
Many businesses offer educational and training opportunities to assist their workforce in upskilling and retraining, but right now the tax code only allows employers to pay up to $5,250 for educational programs for their workers without workers having to pay taxes on these benefits. This cap has not changed since 1986. It is currently far below the cost of most higher education programs and does not cover the costs of tools and technology required to complete an educational program.
The bipartisan Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would update the tax code by enacting an emergency expansion of the tax exclusion from $5,250 to $12,000 for the next two years. It would also expand the tax exclusion to cover the cost of education-related tools and technology, including hand tools, construction equipment, computers and software, and other items related to the costs of a worker completing their education program.
The bipartisan Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act is endorsed by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Council on Education (ACE), American Hotel and Lodging Association, American Mold Builders Association, Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Business Roundtable (BRT), Capella, Coalition to Preserve Employer-Provided Education Assistance, Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH), Excelsior College, Guild Education, Higher Learning Advocates, Jobs for the Future (JFF), The Manufacturing Institute, National Association of College and University Business Officers, National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (NAICU), National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), National Skills Coalition, National Retail Federation, National Tooling and Machining Association, North American Die Casting Association, Precision Metalforming Association, Precision Machined Products Association, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Southern New Hampshire University, Starbucks Coffee Company, UMassOnline, Walmart, Western Governors University (WGU), and Workday.
The Hassan-Young effort builds upon their bipartisan work to help strengthen the workforce for the modern economy. Senators Hassan and Young previously led their colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan Gateway to Careers Act to help expand economic opportunity for hard-working Americans and to support innovative businesses in need of a strong workforce. Senators Hassan and Young also led the effort to introduce the bipartisan American Innovation and Jobs Act to support research and development (R&D) investments by innovative small businesses and startups.