Politics

Ander Crenshaw Proposes Tax-Free Savings Account for Disabled Americans

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: November 15, 2011 4:07 PM

Veteran First Coast Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw led the charge in Washington on Tuesday for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), which would establish tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans. Crenshaw is one of four members of Congress from Florida -- the others being Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Bill Young and Democrat Ted Deutch -- who co-sponsored the bill which was introduced in both chambers of Congress.

Crenshaw spoke to the media at an event where he was joined by Senate sponsor Bob Casey, D-Pa., and congressional sponsors including Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. They were also joined by advocates for the disabled including Peter Berns, the CEO of the ARC; Peter Bell of Autism Speaks; and Sara Wolff from the National Down Syndrome Society board of directors.

“Our tax code currently provides advantages to help Americans save for college and retirement, yet people with disabilities do not enjoy those same financial planning tools,” Crenshaw said. “These individuals and their families face enormous financial struggles that most of us cannot imagine.

“The ABLE Act helps ease those strains by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses, such as education, housing and transportation,” Crenshaw added. “No longer would individuals with disabilities have to stand aside and watch others use IRS-sanctioned tools to lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They would be able to as well, and that’s an accomplishment we all can be proud of.”

The bill was also sponsored by politicians across the political spectrum, including U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and liberal stalwart U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Crenshaw introduced the measure in a speech included in the Congressional Record on Tuesday.

“I rise today to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011,” Crenshaw said. “The ABLE Act is a much-needed, long overdue, savings tool for individuals with disabilities.

“The federal government gives American families a helping hand in saving for the future,” Crenshaw said. “Accounts with special tax advantages help people save for college, retirement, health care and other life events -- but people with disabilities have different challenges for the future; some face decades of expenses that most of us cannot even imagine. Yet, they do not have access to the same advantages that our tax code provides others.

“The average cost of raising a child with a significant medical disability is more than $1 million over the course of the child’s lifetime,” Crenshaw continued. “Continuing education, transportation, housing and medical care make up some of the predictable costs on that staggering bill. ABLE accounts would relieve some of that burden by allowing parents with disabled children or family members of disabled individuals to invest through a tax-deferred 529 account that could be drawn from for these future expenses. No longer would parents have to stand aside and watch as others use IRS-sanctioned tools to lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They would be able to do so for their children, as well.

“The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the establishment of ABLE accounts for the care of family members with disabilities through tax-free savings accounts,” noted Crenshaw. “Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan, bicameral legislation tackles the unfairness in our tax code head-on by creating tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. ABLE accounts will make long-term health, greater independence and a fuller quality of life a possibility. No longer would individuals with disabilities have to stand on the sidelines and watch others use IRS-sanctioned tools to lay the groundwork for a brighter future.

“The cost to reform the U.S. Tax Code to offer ABLE accounts would be minimal, but the positive impact for individuals with disabilities, their families and others who are struggling to cope with an uncertain future would be sizable,” Crenshaw said in closing. “We must move beyond the policies of the past that force individuals with disabilities to live in poverty. The ABLE Act allows individuals with disabilities to save, work and earn just like any other American. As citizens of this great and prosperous country, we must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Helping disabled Americans ‘achieve a better life experience’ is a step forward toward equality with every other American -- and it’s a step worth taking.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.


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