Prior to the inclusion of Section 127 to the Internal Revenue Code, only specifically “job-related” educational assistance could be excluded from an employee’s gross taxable income. Section 127 allows an employee to exclude from income up to $5,250 per year in assistance for any type of educational course at the undergraduate and graduate level. Employers are not required to provide assistance under Section 127 to their employees. However, if an employer chooses to do so, the benefit must be offered to all employees on a non-discriminatory basis that does not favor the highly compensated.
Section 127 was added to the tax code to reduce tax complexity and address two broad policy goals:
- Reducing administrative inequalities that arise when determining what constitutes “job-related” education; and
- Removing disincentives to upward mobility by promoting job advancement and self-improvement for employees.
The Current Status of Section 127
Section 127 was originally established as a five-year provision to give officials time to study it. When it first expired at the end of 1983, a series of extensions were passed. Section 127 has been extended nine times, most recently in 2001. It is currently set to expire at the end of 2012.
Section 127 is a popular employer-provided benefit that enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers as evidenced in past support of such measures. The bill also has widespread support among employers, education and labor groups.
H.R. 4137 was introduced by Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA) on March 5, 2012. This bill would make Section 127 a permanent part of the tax code.
Why Does Section 127 Need to be Renewed?
- Providing tax-free educational assistance is an important tool employers use to attract the best available employees and build a skilled workforce.
- According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study’s most recent data on characteristics of students in postsecondary education, almost one million employees took advantage of Section127 benefits in 2007.
- Section 127 plays a critical role in maintaining US competitiveness. Almost 20 percent of Section 127 recipients are majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees.
- 36 percent of all Section 127 recipients are pursuing a Master’s Degree; 26 percent are pursuing an Associate’s Degree; and 18 percent are pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.
- Repeatedly extending Section 127 rather than making it permanent, causes a great deal of confusion for employees who are not sure they can rely on the benefit and for employers seeking to rework payroll systems or change training programs.
Information Regarding Section 127:
Legislation, 112th Congress
Legislation, 111th Congress: