Spending bill would extend expired tax breaks

Government-funding legislation that the House passed on Tuesday would extend a host of expired and expiring tax breaks.

A manager’s amendment to one of the two spending bills agreed to overnight adds the extensions of the temporary tax breaks, known as “tax extenders,” to the measure.

The amendment largely extends the expiring and expired tax breaks through 2020. Some of the tax breaks had expired at the end of 2017 and are being retroactively extended, such as tax breaks about energy efficiency and provisions benefiting the racehorse and motorsports industries. Others were set to expire at the end of this year, such as the GOP tax law’s tax credit for employers who offer paid family and medical leave and its excise tax relief for brewers, winemakers and distillers. 

The biodiesel tax credit, which expired at the end of 2017, would be extended until 2022. That credit is a top priority of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other lawmakers in agriculture-heavy states.

The measure also includes a host of disaster tax relief provisions and would repeal a provision in Republicans’ 2017 tax law that imposes a 21 percent unrelated business income tax on certain benefits churches and other nonprofits offer to their employees, such as parking benefits. There has been bipartisan support for repealing that part of the 2017 law.

The provisions in the manager’s amendment aren’t the only tax provisions in the spending package. The initial version of the government-funding legislation posted Monday also included the repeal of three health care taxes created by ObamaCare and a bipartisan retirement bill that passed the House earlier this year.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the revenue provisions in the spending bill will cost $427.6 billion over 10 years. Most of that revenue loss, $373.3 billion, is due to the repeal of the ObamaCare taxes.

But the spending bill won’t include other priorities that Democrats and Republicans were hoping to include in year-end legislation. Democrats had been pushing for tax extenders to be paired with the expansion of refundable tax credits benefiting low- and middle-income families and also had sought expansions of renewable energy tax credits. Republicans had been pushing for the inclusion of fixes to drafting errors in the 2017 tax law.

Democrats on Tuesday argued that President Trump’s administration is responsible for the failure to reach a more expansive agreement.

“A better agreement to make a number of policies permanent and extended others was near the finish line, but the administration opposed the package.” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement. “For example, Trump killed a proposal to permanently extend incentives for affordable housing, leaving children out in the cold amidst a nationwide housing crunch.”


But the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), said that the tax deal should have been even narrower than it was. 

“The extenders carry no true reforms, it was just the same old business as usual,” Brady said. He added that Democrats were holding out for expensive expansions of the refundable tax credits until “the very last few days.”

“If they have any concerns, they can just look in the mirror,” Brady said.

The Treasury Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many industry groups had been lobbying Congress for extensions of their tax breaks, and some started to cheer the extenders package Tuesday.

“We are thrilled that lawmakers included a one-year extension of the federal excise tax reduction for distillers in the year-end legislative package,” Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Chris Swonger said in a statement. “While not yet a done deal, this is a significant relief for craft distillers across the country who were facing a 400 percent tax increase beginning January 1.”

But the tax agreement disappointed a number of advocacy groups across the ideological spectrum, who have been arguing that Congress should not renew the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017. 

“This budget deal just keeps getting worse,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “After massively increasing spending caps earlier this year and agreeing to eliminate important revenue sources designed to fund the Affordable Care Act and slow health care cost growth, policymakers now want to charge more to the national credit card by reviving zombie tax extenders. When will the madness stop?”

The agreement was also criticized by groups whose priorities were not included. The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) was disappointed that the package doesn’t do more to promote renewable energy.

“While ACORE supports the modest extensions in the package, they will do little for renewable growth and next to nothing to address climate change,” ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone said. “Given bipartisan support for tax incentives for energy storage, offshore wind, electric vehicles, and other critical clean energy priorities, this outcome is deeply disappointing.”

—Updated at 3:25 p.m.

Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Kevin Brady Ron Wyden spending bill taxes

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