GOP calling on Biden to stop taxing soldiers stationed in Kenya, but ‘policy jargon’ makes things murky

The Biden administration continues to refuse to grant a tax break to New York City’s famous 69th Infantry Regiment that’s currently stationed in Kenya, and congressional Republicans are now crying foul.

As originally reported by the New York Post in November, “Military personnel are exempt from paying federal income taxes — and any New York state or local income taxes — during the time they serve in designated combat zones.”

The problem is that the famous 69th Infantry Regiment was recently deployed to Kenya, a country that’s not been designated a combat zone, “despite the al-Qaeda-allied Al Shabaab terror group waging attacks against Americans there,” according to the Post.

At the time of the Post’s original report, several people complained, including former New York Rep. Max Rose, a combat veteran who served in the 69th.

“As a former member of this unit, I sincerely hope that every one of the 69th soldiers serving in harm’s way receives the tax benefits they deserve and are entitled to. We can’t let policy jargon get in the way of doing the right thing,” he told the Post.

Outgoing Rep. Lee Zeldin, an Army veteran, concurred.

“As the global war on terror has evolved, so should the combat zone recognition for those military service members who are stationed in harm’s way. On Veterans Day, we’re especially cognizant of the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women around the world,” he told the Post.

“It’s critical that combat zone designations and the benefits associated with them recognize the threats our service members have faced on the ground,” he added.

Meanwhile, New York State Assemblyman Robert Smullen delivered a statement on the state House floor calling for the Biden administration to take immediate action.

“I am calling on the Biden administration to designate Kenya as a combat zone without delay so that our nation’s heroes receive the tax benefits they are entitled to,” he said, according to the Rome Sentinel.

A month later, the Biden administration has still refused to take any action, and congressional Republicans are not pleased.

Indeed, this week Rep. Nicole Malliotakis submitted a letter to President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin demanding they resolve this dilemma immediately.

“We write to express our concern regarding the lack of parity on the taxation rate of Soldiers of the New York State National Guard who are currently conducting military operations in the Horn of Africa under the name Task Force Wolfhound. The task force is comprised of National Guard Soldiers from across the great state of New York, the core of which is composed of the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry which is headquartered in New York City,” the letter reads.

“Task Force Wolfhound is operating in the countries of Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. While both Djibouti and Somalia carry the Department of Defense designation as a combat zone which qualifies military personnel assigned to these countries to Combat Zone Tax Exclusions (CZTE), Kenya does not have this designation. This means that Soldiers facing the same regional threats as their peers would not be eligible,” it adds.

The letter, which was also reportedly signed by New York Reps. Elise Stefanik, Grace Meng, and Claudia Tenney, continues with the House Republicans noting the unfairness of these contrasting designations.

“For Djibouti and Somalia to be designated as combat zones, while Kenya, a nation plagued by terror attacks on behalf of the Al-Shabaab militant group, is not, is placing New York’s National Guard Soldiers in harm’s way and allowing them to be taxed on the income that they receive while defending American freedom and values,” it reads.

The letter further notes that State Department staff are currently prohibited from traveling to certain parts of Kenya because of possible terror attacks.

“If the United States can prohibit our government employees from traveling to these regions due to the dangers associated with the area, how is this same area not recognized as a combat zone for our military personnel?” the letter reads.

As an example of a  terror attack in Kenya, the Republicans then drew attention to an airstrip attack that occurred two years ago.

“Al-Shabab militants launched a predawn on Jan. 5, 2020, on an airstrip used by the US and Kenyan militaries, located on Kenya’s coast near its border with Somalia,” the Post notes.

The attack left one U.S. service member and two U.S. private contractors dead. It likewise caused $71.5 million in damages.

“After having given so much to the United States, American service members should not have to pay the United States government for being placed in harm’s way. We urge your Administration to formally designate Kenya a combat zone to ensure our service members are eligible for the CZTE [Combat Zone Tax Exclusions] and the benefits they deserve,” the letter concluded.


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