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A Bill for All, Breaks For a Few

By David R. FrancisStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 6, 1997



BOSTON

The new tax bill contains dozens of tax breaks for special interests.

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Specifically, 79 listed by the Joint Committee on Taxation would benefit 100 or fewer taxpayers.

Under the new line-item veto law, the president can take these provisions out of the bill.

A few broader "corporate giveaways" in the bill are listed by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), a liberal Washington think tank:

Weakening the current Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations. This provision assures that profitable companies pay at least some income tax, even when they take advantage multiple tax breaks. The new bill gives some companies a way to avoid paying the minimum tax. "Corporate freeloaders," CTJ calls the companies that pushed to dilute this provision.

Tax cuts for timber and insurance companies. They will be allowed to characterize part of their regular income as lightly taxed "capital gains." When such provisions were previously on the books, some timber companies paid little or nothing in federal taxes, CTJ says.

Tax break for real estate investors. Tax shelters for top-bracket investors are likely to spring up in uneconomic building projects that actually lose money before taxes, but become profitable after taxes, CTJ maintains.

Ethanol. A 54-cent-a-gallon gasohol tax subsidy, mainly benefiting one company, was extended, though widely criticized for its cost and ineffectiveness in saving energy, CTJ says.

Martin Sullivan of Tax Notes sees some progress in the requirement by the Republican Congress that this tax largess be listed publicly.

Further, he notes, Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House tax-writing committee, has held mostly open sessions, unlike a Democratic predecessor, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois.