‘Cliff’ bill winners: wind, rum, electric scooters and more


The bill approved in Congress in a last-minute holiday vote to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff included a slew of tax provisions that benefit an assortment of industries and organizations from NASCAR and the wind power industry to biodiesel producers and rum makers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,as Kirsten Korosec reports in this article for smartplanet.com.

These are not earmarks. Remember, Congress banned those. The American Taxpayer Relief Act does, however, include relief for a number of industries through so-called extenders. Cuts benefiting individual taxpayers and a range of industries have been added to the tax code over the years.

These cuts or credits are traditionally set up as temporary measures. However, many of them, such as the rum tax, have been around for decades. (A 2010 NYT report provides the whole history of the rum tax).

The hefty 157-page bill has loads of tax extensions, including those for energy-efficient appliances, energy-efficient homes, movie producers and maintenance for railroads. Here’s a rundown of a few industries benefiting from provisions included in the bill:

Wind: A one-year extension of tax credits for wind power projects that begin in 2013. The tax credit technically expired at the end of 2012, but was included in the bill. The American Wind Energy Association says the extension will save up to 37,000 jobs and revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the U.S.

Biodiesel: The $1 per gallon biodiesel blenders tax credit, which expired at the end of 2011, was extended for 2012 and 2013, a move hailed by the National Biodiesel Board. A study found the industry would have produced an additional 300 million gallons this year with the incentive in place, the NBB said in a statement.

Cellulosic ethanol: The bill extends the cellulosic biofuel producer credit for qualified production after Dec. 31, 2008 and before Jan. 1, 2014.

Electric scooters: The bill extends a tax credit for qualified two- or three-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles purchased after Dec. 31, 2011 and before Jan. 1, 2014, amounting to 10 percent of the cost of the vehicle up to $2,500.

Coal on Indian land: This production tax credit essentially subsidizes coal produced on Indian lands at about $2 per ton. As Brad Plumer over at the Washington Post notes, this isn’t new, nor is it a lot of money (about $1 million), but it’s a reminder not all of the clean-energy provisions in the bill are “clean.”

NASCAR:  The extension, which has been in place since 2004, provides a tax benefit through accelerated depreciation to anyone who builds a racetrack. (Hat tip to Plumer who spotted this extension in the bill).

Rum: The cliff bill extends a $13.50 per gallon excise tax on rum produced in or imported to the United States, NPR reported. The bill extends by two years a $13.50 per proof-gallon tax on rum. The revenue from the tax goes into the coffers of the treasuries of the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, Puerto Rico raked in $371 million from the tax in 2008, while the U.S. Virgin Islands received almost $100 million. The New York Times reported in 2010 that the origin of the tax dates back nearly a century:

“Because rum producers in the islands are exempt from federal excise taxes, the government imposed an “equalization tax” on Puerto Rican rum producers in 1917 and gave the money to the commonwealth. In 1954, the United States extended the arrangement to the Virgin Islands.

“For half a century, the program allowed the islands to replenish their depleted treasuries and pay for infrastructure, schools and social services. Puerto Rico used less than 10 percent of the $450 million it received last year to provide marketing support and production subsidies to rum companies, according to government officials, leaving the rest for the island.”

For the original report go to http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/-8216cliff-bill-winners-wind-rum-electric-scooters-and-more/9300

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