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Statement by the President Objecting to a Tax Exemption Provision in a Private Bill.

December 21, 1963

I HAVE today approved H.R. 3662, "For the relief of Mrs. Margaret Patterson Bartlett."

I believe that there are equitable and moral considerations fully justifying the $10,000 award which this bill will pay to Mrs. Bartlett. I object, however, to the fact that the award is specifically made exempt from any Federal tax liability.

Private legislation has traditionally provided a means for the redress of grievances growing out of governmental act or omissions for which there is no legal liability. Far from providing a basis for exemption from Federal taxation, I consider that the moral and equitable considerations supporting these awards argue strongly in favor of making them subject to the general tax laws. There would appear to be no valid reason for treating recipients of these compassionate awards more favorably than the taxpayers who must finance them, and who receive no special treatment in meeting comparable tax obligations.

In particular, adjustment of the amount of the award in committee does not, in my opinion, provide an adequate basis for tax exemption. Such action is inconsistent with sound, prevailing practice under which an individual receives compensation or other payments and then has his tax liability computed under general tax law and, among other things, in relation to other sources of income.

While the state of the record in this case has led me to approve the present bill notwithstanding the objectionable tax feature, I earnestly hope that such features will not find their way into future private legislation.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 3662 is Private Law 88-136 (77 Stat. 922).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Objecting to a Tax Exemption Provision in a Private Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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