WASHINGTON – Struggling to reach a long-term agreement, House Republicans plan to vote on a one-year extension of temporary tax breaks affecting millions of businesses and individuals.
Most of the more than 50 tax breaks expired at the end of 2013, so the extension would only run through the end of this month. However, it would allow taxpayers to claim the tax breaks when they file their 2014 tax returns.
The tax breaks benefit big corporations and small businesses, as well as commuters, teachers and people who live in states without a state income tax. In all, they affect about 1 in 6 taxpayers, according to The Tax Institute, the independent research arm at tax giant H&R Block.
Senate Democrats and House Republicans were negotiating to make some of the tax breaks permanent. But talks faltered last week after the White House threatened to veto an emerging package, saying it too heavily favoured big corporations over families.
Talks are continuing among congressional aides. But with the House scheduled to adjourn for the year next week, House Republicans are preparing to vote on the short-term measure, said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
“We were making really good progress until the president issued the veto threat, and that really caused, I think, a disagreement among Democrats about how to move forward,” Camp said Monday. “That brought a halt to everything, so now we’re looking at a one-year extension.”
The House could vote as early as this week.
The IRS has warned that if Congress waits until the last minute to address the tax breaks, it could delay filing season and tax refunds. Each year, millions of families rush to file their returns so they can get quick refunds.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed concerns Monday about a one-year extension, but stopped short of issuing a new veto threat.
“There are significant fiscal consequences for just a one-year extension, instead of a permanent extension,” Earnest said.
Congress routinely passes the package of temporary tax breaks every year or two, drawing complaints from business groups that it is hard to plan from year to year.
A one-year package would bring more uncertainty next year. But it could give GOP lawmakers more leverage to eventually shape a long-term plan because Republicans take control of the Senate in January.
Business leaders have been pushing lawmakers to pass a long-term plan in the hope that it would help clear the way for Congress to focus on a broad overhaul of the entire tax code next year. Instead, lawmakers could find themselves replaying old fights over temporary tax breaks.
“I hate to say that it’s difficult for Congress to walk and chew gum at the same time, but sometimes it is,” said Rachelle Bernstein, vice-president and tax counsel for National Retail Federation. “We’ve been through this over and over again.”
Among the biggest breaks for businesses is a tax credit for research and development, an exemption that allows companies to shield foreign profits from being taxed by the U.S., and several provisions that allow businesses to write off capital investments more quickly.
There is also a generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable energy sources to produce electricity.
The biggest tax break for individuals allows people who live in states without an income tax to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal returns. Another protects struggling homeowners who get their mortgages reduced from paying income taxes on the amount of debt that was forgiven.
Other more narrow provisions include tax breaks for film and theatre producers, NASCAR race track owners, manufacturers of electric motorcycles, commuters who use public transportation and teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
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