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 Senate OKs Tax Break for Troops
 By Jim Abrams Legislation to ease tax burdens for military personnel and t=
heir families won unanimous Senate support Thursday, with senators determin=
ed to show their gratitude to the service men and women risking their lives=
 in Iraq.
     "One of the best ways we can support our troops is to do everything we=
 can to assure that they and their families are taken care of," said Sen. M=
ax Baucus of Montana, top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
     The legislation, passed 97-0, excludes military death benefits from ta=
xable income, allows reservists and National Guard to deduct travel expense=
s related to their service, and assures that service members forced to make=
 frequent moves won't be subject to capital gains taxes on the sales of the=
ir homes.
     The vote came as Congress considered a $74.7 billion request from the =
White House to help finance the conflict in Iraq and the war against terror=
     The military tax relief legislation, while non-controversial, stalled =
in the last session of Congress when it was linked to other tax legislation=
. It gained new momentum when war began with Iraq. It's an opportunity, sai=
d Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, "to show support for=
 our men and women in uniform in faraway places like Iraq."
     The House, after separating the military tax breaks from a package of =
other tax-related measures, passed a similar version last week with a 422-0=
 vote. The two sides must still reconcile their differences before sending =
a bill to the president.
     The Senate version gives income tax relief to families of the astronau=
ts killed in the Columbia space shuttle disaster. The House has taken simil=
ar steps in a different bill.
     Among other differences, the House limits above-the-line deductions  -=
-  available whether or not taxpayers itemize deductions  --  to cover out-=
of-pocket expenses for reservists traveling to training at $1,500. The Sena=
te has no such limit. "Our service men and women should not be put in the p=
osition of subsidizing their own training," Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said.
     The Senate bill also anticipates recouping some $700 million over 10 y=
ears by enacting new restrictions on people who renounce their U.S. citizen=
ship to avoid paying taxes. The House, in a separate bill, moves to toughen=
 current enforcement against such tax dodgers, which Baucus said would brin=
g in less than half the revenue.
     Both bills, with minor differences, make tax-free the $6,000 burial be=
nefit paid to families of soldiers killed in action. Congress doubled the b=
enefit during the first Gulf War in 1991, but half of that is still subject=
 to taxes.

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