Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are considering splitting up a package of miscellaneous tax breaks, potentially making it tougher for items with less support to survive alongside more popular provisions.
Tax breaks with broad bipartisan support could be pulled from a group of dozens of items and be passed in smaller groups, said Representative Charles Boustany, a Louisiana Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.
“I think it’s very smart to break it up,” he said.
House Republicans have been examining the so-called tax extenders, which include breaks for corporate research, investments in low-income communities and renewable energy.
Congress should no longer rubber-stamp those items and extend them automatically, said Representative Patrick Tiberi, an Ohio Republican who led a hearing today in Washington on the expiring breaks.
The idea of splitting up the package is “under consideration,” Tiberi said.
Most of the provisions were last extended at the end of 2010 and expired at the end of 2011. House Republicans haven’t decided which items they’ll let expire, how they will package them into bills or when they will seek votes.
“This is a continuation,” Tiberi told reporters after the hearing. “We’re not done.”
He said the extensions of miscellaneous breaks probably won’t be in a bill the Republican-led House is expected to pass in July that would extend income tax cuts that are expiring at the end of the year.
“It’s something that we would prefer to do sooner rather than later,” Tiberi said, adding that action on the miscellaneous breaks could wait until after the election. “There’s been no leadership on this from the White House, which is very frustrating.”
Congress should consider the expiring tax breaks as a group and act quickly because many of them could help spur job creation and economic growth, said Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat.
Still, he said, some provisions – such as a tax break for donating conservation easements – merit quick consideration because of the long lead time for taxpayers to make decisions.
“If we can, we should,” said Thompson, who supports a bill to extend that break that has 308 co-sponsors – more than half of the House.
During the hearing, Tiberi said lawmakers and backers of the production tax credit for wind energy agree that the break should be phased out over several years.
The credit, worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.
“We had a lot of consensus from not just members but supporters on this issue of phasing out the tax credit,” Tiberi said.
Wind industry spending is slowing in anticipation of the tax break’s expiration, in part because facilities must begin producing energy by Dec. 31 to qualify for the credit.
The conservation easement bill is H.R. 1964.