The bonus depreciation tax break allows businesses to deduct up to 50% of the cost of capital purchases upfront, resulting in big tax savings for business owners. In May 2014, the Ways and Means Committee of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 23-11 – along party lines – to renew and make permanent the tax break designed to encourage corporate business investment.
A Tax Break with a Deficit
But making the depreciation tax break permanent would add nearly $300 billion to the deficit over the next ten years, according to the Wall Street Journal. A measure to make corporate research credits permanent would increase the deficit by another $300 billion. Enacting all the corporate-friendly tax measures proposed or passed by the House would extract approximately $1 trillion from the economy. Despite these added costs to the budget, the sentiment in the House is that business owners need certainty about future tax regulations in order to feel confident about making capital investments.
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A Fate Less Certain
The permanent extension of the corporate capital deductions bill is scheduled for a vote by the full House, where it is expected to pass, most likely along party lines as well. But the ultimate fate of the corporate depreciation tax credit is somewhat less certain. A version of the corporate depreciation tax credit bill under consideration in the Democratic-majority Senate limits the extension of the credit to two years. Scheduling a Senate vote for its version of the bill is also being weighed down by partisan battles concerning a number of related and unrelated issues.
The differences between the bills means that the two would have to be reconciled before they could be sent to President Obama’s desk for his signature or veto. It is not known whether President Obama would sign the measure if it passed Congress, although he did sign a similar measure in 2010 that allowed businesses to apply an accelerated rate to deductions for capital expenses on their 2010 federal income tax returns.
Renewing Expired Tax Breaks
In a typical year, Congress passes numerous pieces of legislation designed to renew or extend temporary tax measures that have expired recently. Even in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of the present Congress, many expired tax measures are expected to be renewed eventually. This includes the corporate depreciation deduction. But given that 2014 is an election year, some observers believe that no significant legislation will be passed until after November, when a lame-duck Congress will be at least temporarily freed from the pressures of campaigning.
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