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Congress Moves on Tax Vote

May 28, 2010 · 17 comments

It’s almost like Congress is dragging this thing out just to make me have to type the phrase American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. There’s not even a good acronym for it since there’s too many consonants and not enough vowels: AJCTLA, which kind of sounds like something Gwen Stefani would name her kid.

There was a bit a grumbling over the last version of the bill (you can read my initial take on it here) so Congress gave itself a 72 hour “window” to think about it. That was six days ago – apparently members of Congress didn’t do so hot in math class (there are 24 hours in a day, people, not 12).

So here’s what’s in the latest version of the bill (keep in mind that it’s quite long, so these are the highlights):

  1. Relief for the Unemployed. The bill extends unemployment benefits, including COBRA health care benefits, through the end of November. Benefits were slated to run out at the end of May; the bill would allow, depending on each state’s unemployment rate, for up to fifty-three (53) weeks of extended benefits.
  2. Medicare Cuts. The bill would push off a planned cut in Medicare reimbursement to doctors until January 2012. That cut has been slated to kick in since 2003 (!) as a result of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. But in true Congressional form, we just keep pushing them off rather than, oh say, fixing them.
  3. Energy Tax Extensions. The whole point of the bill initially was to extend many provisions that were expiring this year. Included in the list were a slew of energy tax extensions. Here are some slated for extension:
    • Alternative motor vehicle credit for new qualified hybrid motor vehicles other than passenger automobiles and light trucks;
    • Incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel;
    • Credit for electricity produced at certain open-loop biomass facilities;
    • Credit for refined coal facilities;
    • Credit for production of low sulfur diesel fuel;
    • Credit for producing fuel from coke or coke gas;
    • New energy efficient home credit; and
    • Excise tax credits and outlay payments for alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures.
  4. Individual Tax Extensions. The bill extends a number of expiring provisions for individuals, too. Among them:
    • Deductions for expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers;
    • Additional standard deduction for State and local real property taxes.
    • Deduction of State and local sales taxes.
    • Contributions of capital gain real property made for conservation purposes.
    • Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.
  5. Expansion of federal disaster provisions. Of specific note are provisions that address oil spills, floods and mining disasters – clearly reactionary. Give Congress a month or two and they can throw in some hurricane and tornado specific provisions, too.
  6. Small business lending program extensions. The bill would extend the small business lending program created under ARRA.
  7. Business Tax Relief. There are a few provisions in the bill meant to spur economic growth. Among them, reinstating the R&D credit for businesses and allowing corporations to receive a refund of a portion of their AMT credits if they invest during 2010 in capital equipment for use in the US.
  8. Summer Jobs for Teens. In one of the more controversial bits of the bill, funding is increased for summer jobs programs creased under ARRA. Specifically, the program targets youths who are ages 14 to 24. Opponents (myself included) wonder if it makes sense to encourage job growth for teens and young adults at a time when there is historically high unemployment for adults.
  9. The “Congress loves NASCAR” provision. Okay, that’s not really what it’s called. But since Congress was throwing in the whole kitchen sink on this bill, they also extended a special 7-year cost recovery period for property used for land improvement and support facilities at motorsports entertainment complexes.
  10. The “Congress also loves movies” provision. The bill would extend the provision that allows film and TV producers to expense the first $15 million of production costs incurred in the US. If you’ve been following this at all, you know that this is a grab to keep TV and movies here instead of moving to Canada, an increasingly popular movie-making destination these days.
  11. The “Congress pretends to hate foreign companies because it’s popular now” provisions. Pages and pages of ‘em.
  12. Death to s corporations. This provision, which I criticized before, is still in the bill. The bill would impose payroll taxes on distributions from an S corporation engaged in a professional service business that is principally based on the reputation and skill of 3 or fewer individuals or an S corporation that is a partner in a professional service business. Professional service is a pretty broad term and would include “health, law, lobbying, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics,, investment advice or management, or brokerage services.”

I know, I know. There’s no “Congress loves brunettes” provision or “Congress loves tax bloggers” provision. It seems like Congress is trying to give something to everyone… although by “something” that seems to include the shaft for certain taxpayers.

Reports are early on that Congress has the votes to get this through. Check back for updates.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason M Blumer May 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Kelly, I almost can’t believe #12 in your post! That is the foundation of our tax planning with our clients – and most of them are service-based business. Oh, man, we are freakin’ toast.

This really stinks. Thanks for the great updates.

Jason M. Blumer, CPA

2 Liz Alexander May 31, 2010 at 10:48 am

Wow! How nice of them to make our lives so miserable.

@Jason – So much for tax planning for our S corp clients…but think of all the new 1099-MISC forms we’re going go get to send to WalMart, & McDonalds from the other genius laws passed this year.

Thanks, Kelly, for your updates.
Liz Alexander, CPA

3 Vince Emmer, CFP May 31, 2010 at 11:59 pm

So we’re looking at darn near $1,000,000 in unfunded government liabilities for an ordinary US family making $75,000 a year, once all the pieces are totaled up in present value terms.

And Congress seems bound and determined to “Evel Knievel” over this debt, dumping this bill into its fuel tank for a little extra oooomph….like the guys pouring vodka into their Harleys at Sturgis.

This could make quite a crater.

4 CC1 June 9, 2010 at 2:31 am

Kelly,

If “distributions” are taxes as wages, are we to assume that profits NOT taken as distributions, while still being taxed as income, won’t be taxed as wages?

5 Kelly June 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

CC1, Hmm, great question! I would say yes – but I haven’t checked that out.

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