NDAA Offers Possible Relief for Relocating Feds

A provision within the Senate version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would rectify a glitch in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which placed additional tax burdens on relocating federal employees. The legislation passed the Senate but now must be compared with the House legislation in order to produce one bill to become law.

The NDAA is often seen as a ‘must-pass’ bill and therefore acts as a vehicle for relatively uncontroversial legislation which has languished in Congress. One such piece of legislation is the Relocation Expense Parity Act. This act would ensure all federal employees who qualify for reimbursement for moving expenses also have the taxes owed as a result of that relocation reimbursed as well.

Last year, Senators Warner and Kaine wrote a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) requesting clarity on the reimbursement system. While the clarity offered by GSA did alleviate the tax burden for about 95 percent of federal employees, the remaining 5 percent were still subjected to these expenses. As a result, Senator Warner introduced the Relocation Expense Parity Act to remove the burden entirely.

The legislation, S. 841, garnered six bipartisan cosponsors but never moved through the upper chamber.

The Senate version of the FY 2020 NDAA included the measure as amendment to the legislation in Section 1105.

Nathan Catura, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, noted when the bill was first introduced in the Senate, “Federal agents and law enforcement officers are subject to mobility agreements and frequently relocate to new duty stations throughout their career to protect and serve the American public. Such moves are stressful and costly enough for federal agents and their families – they do not need the additional burden of significant tax bills because they were required to relocate for their job. Agencies are also facing challenges hiring and deploying law enforcement officers, especially to border areas, and those barriers would be lowered with passage of this legislation.”

While the Senate NDAA passed on an 86-8 vote, the House has produced a competing version of the legislation. The House bill passed that chamber on a 220-197 vote.

Both chambers will now bring their bills to conference where they will work out inconsistencies and pass a bill which will land on the president’s desk.

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