The fiscal cliff deal is good news for America’s middle class – and Puerto Rican rum importers and owners of Nascar teams
Much has been said about what the fiscal cliff bill – passed among much congressional huffing and puffing and emo legislative drama – will do for the middle class. We all know by now that it will wipe out dreaded tax hikes that would have descended like locusts after the Bush-era tax cuts were supposed to end.
But as you go through each of the 157 pages of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the idea of the middle class as a special interest seems a little, well, provincial for the world’s putatively greatest legislative body. How about Puerto Rican rum distributors? Rescuers of trapped miners? Nascar owners? People who own plug-in electric vehicles? Are they not people too, with an equal right to special tax breaks to protect them from the vagaries of the Internal Revenue Service? Congress, apparently, answers with a resounding yes: damn the austerity, and full speed ahead with a tax break in every pot.
Collect your tax break and pass go: here’s the full list of those eligible for custom-fitted tax breaks:
People who have children.
People who take a deduction based on their home mortgages. (Usually very large mortgages).
First-time homebuyers in the District of Columbia.
You have bought energy-efficient appliances, or built an energy-efficient new home.
People who own two- or three-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles.
People who own a property that refuels electric vehicles.
A biofuel production tax incentive – up to $1.01 per gallon of cellulosic biofuel – that is: “sold and used by the purchaser in the purchaser’s trade or business to produce a cellulosic biofuel mixture; sold and used by the purchaser as a fuel in a trade or business; sold at retail for use as a motor vehicle fuel; used by the producer in a trade or business to produce a cellulosic biofuel mixture; or used by the producer as a fuel in a trade or business.” If that sounds dense, wait until you get to the section about “special rules for algae.” Don’t try any fun stuff with tax breaks for “any cultivated algae, cyanobacteria, or lemna.” This entire tax break will cost roughly $59m.
People who use employer-provided TransitCheks and other transportation benefits.
A tax credit for Americans working abroad, who have already paid taxes to a foreign government.
People who are training to rescue people from mines, and their employers, and employers who want to get a tax break for using mine safety equipment.
You are a veteran who has served in the Armed Forces for more than six months or were discharged for disability connected to your military service, and are a member of a family that received food stamps for at least three months for 15 months before you were hired.
You are a veteran who is entitled to compensation for a disability related to your service in the Armed Forces, and are hired within one year of discharge from active duty, or unemployed for at least six months in year before you were hired.
You are a veteran who has been unemployed for at least four weeks or at least six months.
You are a small-business owner with fewer than 50 employees who employs a member of the armed forces. (Up to $20,000).
You run a school that needs bonds to raise money for “renovating school buildings, purchasing equipment, developing curricula, and/or training school personnel” – but not raising any new buildings.
You are a businessman, rancher or farmer who contributes food from your inventory to charity.
You run a retail business or restaurant whose building has depreciated in value over 15 years, and you want to claim a tax credit.
You own a business on a Native American reservation, that was placed in service before January 1, 2012, and you want to claim a tax deduction on its depreciation.
You run a short-line railroad that needs a tax break for maintenance of its tracks. (Up to 50% of the maintenance cost.)
You are an angel investor or investor in a small business who wants to get a 100% tax break on any money you make from the gain in the value of your stock .
You built a Nascar (“motorsports entertainment complex”) facility and you want a tax break for it.
You are a bank or multinational company and you want to defer taxes on your overseas financing activities. This tax break is extended for two years and will cost taxpayers $9bn, according to the Washington Post.
You are an investment company that declares a dividend before September 15 (or before a request for an extension on your tax return) and distributes the amount to shareholders within a year. This would allow companies to pay dividends at a lower rate than the prevailing one, as long as they were announced before the tax hike. Shareholders will also be able to claim that income as coming from the same, earlier year.
You own a business and you need to deduct the cash payments you made on equipment and property – and even software – that has depreciated in value.
You are a stockholder in an S corporation and you want to deduct the fair market value of a property you donated to a charity. (Note: this is sometimes used for people who donate land to conservation efforts.)
You have invested in the economic development of American Samoa.
You import or distribute Puerto Rican rum. This is a $222m tax break.
You own an Indian coal facility placed into service before 2009, and need a production credit.
You are a TV or film production company in the United States and you want “special expensing rules” to keep working here. “Producers can expense up to $15m of costs for their projects,” according to ABC News.
A member of a family that meets one of the following circumstances: received Long-term Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tanf) benefits for at least 18 consecutive months ending on the hiring date.
Received Tanf benefits for at least 18 consecutive or non-consecutive months after August 5, 1997, and has a hiring date that is not more than 2 years after the end of the earliest 18-month period after August 5, 1997.
Stopped being eligible for Tanf payments during the past 2 years because a Federal or state law limited the maximum time those payments could be made.
Short-term Tanf Recipient: a member of a family that received TANF benefits for any 9-month period during the 18-month period ending on the hiring date.
Snap (food stamp) Recipient: An 18-39 year old member of a family that received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap) benefits for the six months ending of the hiring date or received SNAP benefits for at least three of the five months ending on the hiring date.
Designated Community Resident: an 18- to 39-year-old who lives within one of the federally designated Rural Renewal Counties or Empowerment Zones.
Vocational Rehabilitation Referral: an individual with a disability who completed or is completing rehabilitative services from a state-certified agency, an Employment Network under the Ticket to Work program, or the US Department of Veteran Affairs.
Ex-offender: an individual who has been convicted of a felony and has a hiring date that is not more than 1 year after the conviction or release from prison.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient: a recipient of SSI benefits for any month ending during the past 60-day period ending on the hire date.
Summer youth: a 16- or 17-year-old youth who works for the employer between May 1 and September 15 and lives in an Employer Zone.