Safety net programs, physician fees attached to tax extenders bill

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tax bill grows to include safety net programs

The House plans to vote on a bill next week that started off as a one-year extension of popular tax breaks, but has grown into a grab bag of unfinished business lawmakers hope to complete before Memorial Day.

Among the provisions lawmakers are working on:

—A one-year extension of more than 50 tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. The tax breaks, which total about $30 billion, include a property tax deduction for people who don’t itemize, lucrative credits that help businesses finance research and development and a sales tax deduction that mainly helps people in the nine states without income taxes.

—Expanded unemployment benefits of up to 99 weeks in many states for people mired in joblessness as the economy slowly recovers from the worst recession in decades. Unemployment insurance typically provides recipients with about one-third of their lost wages, with core benefits lasting 26 weeks.

—A 65 percent subsidy of health insurance premiums for the unemployed under the COBRA program, through the end of the year.

—Relief for doctors facing a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments. Doctors would be exempt from the cuts for five years.

—Expansion of the Build America Bonds program, which subsidizes interest costs paid by local governments when they borrow for construction projects.

—A change in the way income earned by investment fund managers is taxed, raising about $20 billion over the next decade. Investment managers typically get a fee to manage funds or assets. They also get a share of the profits earned for investors above a certain level. Under current law, the profit-sharing fees, called carried interest, are taxed as capital gains, with a top rate of 15 percent. The House bill would tax the fees as regular income, with a top tax rate of 35 percent, scheduled to rise to 39.6 percent in 2011.

—A 1-cent a barrel increase, to 9 cents a barrel, in an excise tax paid by oil companies to finance an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, beginning this year, in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

—A tax increase on multinational companies would raise an estimated $9.5 billion over the next decade by limiting the ability of some U.S.-based companies to use foreign tax credits to reduce their U.S. taxes.

—A requirement that lawyers, doctors and other service providers pay Medicare taxes on some of the profits they receive from their businesses, if the firms are structured as S Corporations. The S Corporations are business entities in which the owners report business income on their individual tax returns.

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