Vote on Business Tax Breaks Possible This Week

Durbin says delay on breaks including those for wind energy and corporate research adds to uncertainty.

The U.S. Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said a vote may be held this week on $205.1 billion in tax-break extensions, including those for wind energy, corporate research and financial services companies’ overseas operations.

“We would like to move to it before we leave, get a vote on it,” Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said today in an interview in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is negotiating with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to schedule a vote, Durbin said. The Senate is trying to wrap up its business so members can go home and campaign for the Nov. 6 election.

“I think it’s a little late, because there’s no time,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican. “It’s a huge subject. By letting it go this long, I just think we’ve forgone the opportunity to effectively deal with it this week.”

A vote on the tax breaks this week is preferable because some “have a direct impact” on business investment decisions, Durbin said.

“We’re finding that a lot of the renewable and sustainable energy investments are being held up because of the uncertainty,” he said. “We hope that we can pass this extender bill, maybe even encourage the House to do the same, and dispel the uncertainty and create more jobs.”

Even if the Senate acts this week, the measure won’t become law because Republicans who have the majority in the House have said they will wait until after the election to address the tax breaks.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp told reporters he would rather deal with the tax-break extensions after Congress acts on continuing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

“I am really not prepared to talk about extenders right now,” Camp said. The Michigan Republican spoke after he met privately today with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Most of the tax breaks have lapsed and would be revived by the measure, S. 3521. One exception is the production tax credit for wind energy, which expires Dec. 31. The bill would extend the wind energy production tax credit through 2013.


Alternative Minimum Tax

The proposal also would ensure that more taxpayers aren’t subject to paying the alternative minimum tax in 2012 and 2013. The tax, initially designed to prevent high-income households from avoiding taxes legally, disproportionately affects people in high-income states with heavy local tax burdens, including New York, New Jersey and California.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure Aug. 2. The panel’s chairman, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, developed it with Utah’s Orrin Hatch, the panel’s top Republican, marking a rare bipartisan agreement on tax policy.

Financial-services companies that operate outside the U.S., companies that conduct corporate research and some restaurant owners are among the businesses benefiting from the tax breaks. Companies including General Electric Co., Citigroup Inc. and Whirlpool Corp. are among those lobbying for extensions of expired provisions.

Some tax benefits, including those for investment in the District of Columbia, wouldn’t be extended under the plan.

Finance Committee members are meeting privately throughout the day on strategies for addressing with the so-called fiscal cliff, the combination of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending reductions set to take effect in January. The panel’s private meetings include a 4:30 p.m. session with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.


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