Congress Is About to Let 55 Tax Breaks Expire

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 31 2013 10:24 AM

Congress Is About to Let 55 Tax Breaks Expire

457399273
Sen. Harry Reid (L) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (R) are probably not discussing your tax breaks.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

What do college students, renewable energy companies, and rum importers have in common? They're all about to see their tax breaks expire. What should be a routine renewal of popular tax breaks has become a fraught waiting game thanks to Congress' manipulation of budget calculations. From the AP:

The two-year extension Congress passed in January cost $76 billion in reduced revenue for the government, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. Making those tax breaks permanent could add $400 billion or more to the deficit over the next decade.

Instead of permanence, then, Congress has chosen to renew the breaks year by year—but this dyfunctional Congress never quite got around to doing it. That means myriad businesses and individuals will be unable to properly calculate their 2014 taxes until Congress passes a bill that retroactively applies the breaks. And if recent history is any indication, our representatives in Washington are in no rush to do that. Congress didn't renew 2012's tax breaks until Jan. 1, 2013, leaving taxpayers just enough time to claim the breaks on their 2012 returns. 

Advertisement

Given all this confusion, why doens't Congress just make the cuts permanent and accept the budget impact all at once? It might go beyond dysfunction and budget manipulation:

"More cynically, some people say, if you just put it in for a year or two, then that keeps the lobbyists having to come back and wine-and-dine the congressmen to get it extended again, and maybe make some campaign contributions," said Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH, a consulting firm based in Riverwoods, Ill.

Accountants are advising Americans who rely on the tax breaks to expect for their demise and plan accordingly. That's sound advice, certainly, but not exactly a rosy forecast.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.