House Passes Extension of Bush Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (DECEMBER 17, 2010)
BY MICHAEL COHN

The House approved an $858 billion extension of the Bush-era tax rates and unemployment benefits late Thursday night, a day after the Senate approved the bill, sending the bill to President Obama’s desk.

After procedural hurdles held up the vote for much of the day on Thursday, the House reconvened in the evening to settle the terms of the debate. Amid widespread dissatisfaction among House Democrats over the terms of the deal struck by President Obama and Republican congressional leaders, especially on setting the estate tax at a rate of 35 percent for estates over $5 million, they agreed to first hold a vote on an amendment by Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., which would set the estate tax rate at 45 percent for inheritances over $3.5 million. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 233 to 194.

The bill includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era income tax rates, including those for dividends and capital gains. It also extends emergency unemployment insurance for another 13 months. The bill would also lower Social Security payroll taxes by 2 percentage points from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for a year. Several lawmakers, however, criticized that provision, saying it would weaken the Social Security trust fund and not be open to government employees.

The bill would also extend the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college tuition. It would also allow businesses to deduct 100 percent of investments in plant and equipment in the first year, and extend for two years the state and local sales tax deduction. In addition the bill would “patch” the AMT, extending Alternative Minimum Tax relief for two years to prevent the AMT from ensnaring millions more taxpayers. The bill also includes extensions of the Research and Experimentation Credit for businesses.

It also would extend a variety of popular tax breaks, including the ability of schoolteachers to expense purchases of school supplies. The bill also includes energy tax breaks for biodiesel fuel, ethanol and renewable energy sources.

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