Policy Briefs

Top 10 Tax Sweeteners in the Bailout Bill

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October 09, 2008
Programs: Budget & Tax

Update:
The House has just passed the final version of the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, without making any changes to the version received from the Senate.  The final vote was 263-171.  See how your Representative voted.

Note:
In the analysis below we identified where possible specific champions of each provision.  One thing that we did not explain very well is that many of the provisions are “extenders,”  meaning the legislation in many cases simply extends existing law set to expire at the end of this year, and in some cases reinstates existing legislation that expired earlier in the year.  Therefore, we couldn’t necessarily go back in history to identify who originally promoted some of the provisions.  Many of these provisions had already been voted on and passed earlier this year, but had not been voted on in the House, so the Senate simply stuck them on to the underlying legislation.  This is also true for other things tacked onto the bill, such as the Alternative Minimum Tax patch.


The following are some of the top tax sweeteners in the Senate passed Bailout Bill. Not all the provisions are per se outrageous, but collectively are intended to help Congressional leadership get final passage of the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.

1. Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children

Current law places an excise tax of 39 cents on the first sale by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of any shaft of a type used to produce certain types of arrows. This proposal would exempt from the excise tax any shaft consisting of all natural wood with no laminations or artificial means to enhance the spine of the shaft used in the manufacture of an arrow that measures 5/16 of an inch or less and is unsuited for use with a bow with a peak draw weight of 30 pounds or more. The proposal is effective for shafts first sold after the date of enactment. The estimated cost of the proposal is $2 million over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Oregon senators were the initial sponsors of the provisions. According to Bloomberg News, the provision would be worth $200,000 to Rose City Archery in Myrtle Point, Oregon.

2. Sec. 317. Seven-year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facility

Track owners want to be able write-off the cost of their facilities on their taxes over seven years - a depreciation timetable many of them have used for decades. But the IRS has wanted to stretch it to at least 15 years and has raised questions whether the increasingly popular tracks really belong in the same tax category as amusement parks.

Auto track owners are simply trying to get out of paying more taxes - which they'd have to do if they deducted less every year. These owners have gotten plenty of tax breaks over the years from states and localities eager to get speedways. The provision would be extended 2 years till the end of 2009 and would cost $100 million. The provision encompasses all facilities including grandstands, parking lots and concession stands.

3. Sec. 308. Increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Extends until December 31, 2009 a rebate against excise taxes charged on rum imported from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. A $13.50 per proof gallon excise tax is applied to distilled spirits imported to the U.S. Under this provision a $13.25 rebate is returned to PR and the VI, and is retroactive back to January 1, 2008.  Permanent law sets the rebate at $10.50 per proof gallon, but the PR and VI provisions have generally been in place since the first Clinton Administration.  The most recent extension of the $13.50 rebate expired January 1, 2008. Cost is $192 million.

4. Sec. 301. Extension and modification of research credit

The legislation reestablishes and extends the lucrative tax credit for companies doing research and experimentation in the United States. Companies that have benefited from this provision include Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co., United Technologies Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Harley-Davidson. The two-year extension is estimated to cost $19 billion.

5. Sec. 504. Income averaging for amounts received in connection with the Exxon Valdez litigation

The bailout bill would give a tax break to Exxon Valdez plaintiffs, allowing them to average out their punitive damages awards over three years rather than suffer a one-time tax hit from the Internal Revenue Service, as well as other provisions. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is a big supporter of this provision. Cost is estimated at $49 million.

6. Sec. 601. Secure rural schools and community self-determination program.

Secure Rural Schools lead sponsors Reps. DeFazio (D-OR), Bill Sali (R-ID); Sens. Wyden (D-OR), Larry Craig (R-ID), are major boosters of this program that expired in 2006. In 1908 the federal government agreed to share logging revenue from Forest Service land with neighboring communities that could not tax the land because it was federal. As logging declined in the 1990s, the "county payments" program was initiated in 2000 to directly provide federal funding, more than half going to Oregon, to deal with the loss of revenue. The original version of this provision was introduced as a bill in early 2007 and was estimated to cost $2.2 billion when the OR and ID delegations came to agreement. To give the package more heft, Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) was added to the package, bringing the total cost to $3.3 billion. PILT provides more general funding to counties for federal lands located within their borders. Sen. Reid (D-NV) talked about the PILT program being one of the important elements of the package when the Senate passed the bailout bill.
 
7. Sec. 201. Deduction for state and local sales taxes

Allows residents of states that don’t pay income tax to deduct, from their federal taxes, sales tax paid over the course of the year. States that benefit include Texas, Nevada, Florida, Washington and Wyoming. The bailout bill extends this provision for 2 years at a cost of $3.3 billion.

8. Sec 502. Provisions related to film and television productions

In an effort to keep film and television productions in the U.S, they would be eligible for a tax incentive program. Under this program, the cost of production of qualifying films would be permitted to be immediately expensed -- that is, fully deducted from income for tax purposes -- in the year the expenditures occur. This provision also makes permanent other favorable tax treatments for production. Historically Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) has been a supporter (dating from its creation in the 2004 corporate tax bill). The cost is estimated at $478 million over 10 years.

9. Sec. 325. Extension and modification of duty suspension on wool products; wool research fund; wool duty refunds

The tariff relief (duty savings) is intended to benefit U.S. worsted wool fabric producers that use imported fibers and yarns as inputs, as well as U.S. tailored clothing manufacturers that use imported fabrics as inputs.  This provision was originally introduced as a bill in December 2007 by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Melissa Bean (D-IL).  It extends current law provisions until 12/31/14, and in some cases to12/31/15. The 2010 to 2015 cost is estimated to be $148 million.

10. Sec. 309. Extension of economic development credit for American Samoa

This extends by two years a previously approved tax credit, the American Samoa economic development credit. In general, this credit allows certain corporations operating in American Samoa a tax credit. The possessions tax credit allows these corporations to offset a portion of their U.S. tax liability on income earned in American Samoa from active business operations, sales of assets used in a business, or certain investments in American Samoa. The cost is $33 million, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Other Examples

Here are some other interesting provisions:

Sec. 201. Inclusion of cellulosic biofuel in bonus depreciation for biomass ethanol plant property
Current law allows taxpayers to write-off 50% of the cost of any facility placed in service before January 1, 2013 that produces cellulosic ethanol.  This provision expands the types of facilities that may be written-off to include production of other cellulosic biofuels in addition to cellulosic ethanol.

Sec. 211. Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters
Allows employers to provide a benefit to employees for costs associated with bicycle commuting, including purchase and repair of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, and bicycle storage. This provision was proposed in 2007 in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This provision is estimated to cost $10 million.

Sec. 323. Enhanced charitable deductions for contributions of food inventory
Extends by two years, until December 31, 2009, a provision allowing for deductions related to the charitable donation of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as food intended for human consumption that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by law and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable. This provision also changes the application of the law as it relates to donations by farmers and ranchers. The cost is $149 million, according to Joint Committee on Taxation.

Sec. 324. Extension of enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of bookinventory
Extends by two years, until December 31, 2009, a tax benefit for the contribution of books to public schools. The provision is worth $49 million.

Sec. 602. Transfer to abandoned mine reclamation fund
Transfers interest earned on money in the abandoned mine reclamation fund to the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Fund, which helps pay health benefits for retired miners and their dependents who worked under collective bargaining agreements that promised lifetime health-care benefits.  States with the most miners receiving benefits have historically been Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio. This provision extends existing law to include a $9 million transfer for 2010.

Filed under: Increase Transparency, Cut Subsidies, Eliminate Corporate Welfare

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