WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a $42 billion package of tax incentives, reviving dozens of lapsed breaks for 2014 and setting them to expire in two weeks. After the 76-16 vote, the bill was sent to President Obama, who signed it Tuesday night. The House passed the measure Dec. 3 on a 378-46 vote. Congress will have the “dubious distinction” of starting next year with all of the provisions expired, said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R., Utah), poised to become chairman of the Finance Committee in January. “Never in the history of tax legislation have so many voted for so little and been so disappointed,” he said.
Beneficiaries of the breaks include multinational corporations such as General Electric and Intel, along with individuals who sold homes in short sales or live in states without income taxes. By extending the tax breaks through 2014, Congress did the bare minimum necessary to avoid creating a major disruption to the 2015 tax-filing season or saddling taxpayers with unexpectedly higher bills. Still, lawmakers didn’t provide predictability or certainty for 2015. That will put the lapsed tax breaks back on the agenda next year. The tax breaks are known as extenders, because they are routinely set to lapse and then are continued. The package includes some provisions with broad bipartisan support, such as incentives for charitable donations from retirement accounts, the research tax credit for companies, and higher capital writeoff limits for small businesses. It also includes a few items targeted to particular industries, such as the production tax credit for wind energy and accelerated depreciation for motorsports tracks. House Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were close to a deal in late November that would have made some of the breaks permanent, including the research tax credit, the state sales tax deduction, and a tuition tax credit that does not lapse until the end of 2017. That proposal collapsed when Obama threatened to veto it, with administration officials saying it aided businesses without providing enough to individuals.