2014 legislative update: Alabama House committee votes to lift individuals' scholarship credit cap under Accountability Act

An Alabama House committee Wednesday approved a bill to erase a size limit on the state income tax credit that an individual can claim for contributions to groups that grant scholarships under the Alabama Accountability Act. HB 558, sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, moves to the House.

The Accountability Act, enacted last year, provides state income tax credits to help parents of children in “failing” schools pay for private school tuition or a transfer to a non-failing public school. The law also provides tax credits for contributions to scholarship programs to help those students’ parents cover remaining costs.

Fincher’s bill would remove the Accountability Act’s current $7,500 annual cap on the tax credit that individuals or married couples can claim for contributions to organizations that grant scholarships under the act. Alabama still could provide a total of no more than $25 million of scholarship credits annually. Individuals and corporations also still could claim credits only for contributions up to 50 percent of their state income tax liability.

Susan Kennedy of the Alabama Education Association questioned Wednesday whether the state should pass a bill whose tax benefits would flow largely to Alabamians with extremely high incomes. Among those speaking in favor of the bill were Toby Roth, who represents an online education corporation, and Sharon Lewis, principal of the Oakwood Adventist Academy in Huntsville. Lewis said the Accountability Act has given children educational opportunities they otherwise would not have had.

Another portion of HB 558 would allow owners of S corporations and Subchapter K entities to claim tax credits for their share of the companies’ scholarship contributions. The bill also would revise the Accountability Act's definition of “failing” schools. Click here to read the Montgomery Advertiser’s report on the committee’s action for more details.

Lawmakers will return Thursday for the 24th of 30 allowable meeting days during the 2014 regular session, which is expected to last until early April.

By M.J. Ellington, health policy analyst. Posted March 12, 2014.

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