Expanded tax plan approved

WASHINGTON — The House’s tax-writing committee on Thursday approved a multifaceted tax package it said would save people almost $10 billion through expansion of the child tax credit and creation of a new deduction for property taxes.

The package renews for another year the write-off for state and local sales taxes, a benefit popular in Nevada and seven other states that don’t tax resident income.

It also extends tax credits for renewable energy production, at the urging of investors in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

“Homeowners, parents, teachers, small businesses, college students and millions of other Americans will see a tax savings as a result of this package,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., a committee member who voted for it.

Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., also sat on the panel and voted for the package.

“The priorities we passed today will benefit Nevada families by extending their ability to deduct state sales tax, increase the competitiveness of American corporations by granting a tax credit for research and development and enable facilities like Solar One in Boulder City to expand their ability to bring renewable energy sources to families in Southern Nevada,” Porter said.

But the Ways and Means Committee put off for another day the annual debate over what to do with the alternative minimum tax that threatens millions of taxpayers with thousands of dollars in extra taxes apiece unless Congress acts to suppress it.

The package, approved 25-12, includes some 60 provisions encompassing incentives for investment in renewable energy, renewal of specific tax breaks that have expired or will expire this year, and new help for parents, homeowners and lawyers.

The total cost would be about $57 billion. In addition to the $10 billion in new relief for individuals, it contains $20 billion in renewable energy incentives and $27 billion to extend such popular tax breaks as the research and development credit and the credit for the out-of-pocket expenses of teachers.

The bill now goes to the full House. The Senate is working on its own version of tax extension and renewable energy incentives.

The alternative minimum tax issue was not taken up because of a basic difference over whether Congress should come up with new revenues to offset money lost by shielding people from the tax.

Last year that debate stretched into December, when House Democrats finally bowed to pressure from the Senate and accepted an unpaid-for AMT fix. Without that fix the AMT, enacted in 1969 to catch a very small number of very rich tax dodgers, would have hit some 25 million mostly upper-middle-class taxpayers, up from about 4 million in 2006.

The bill would increase eligibility for the refundable tax credit in 2008. That’s the credit that becomes available when the child tax credit, worth up to $1,000 per child, exceeds a person’s tax liability. The measure would extend the credit to 12 million more children.

It would also provide for one year an additional standard deduction for state and local real property taxes paid by those who claim the regular standard deduction. It would be worth up to $700 for a couple.

The extended tax breaks include deductions of tuition and other education expenses. It extends, at a cost of $7 billion over 10 years, the tax credit for production of renewal fuel sources such as wind, biomass and geothermal power. Separate tax items affect solar energy, clean coal, cellulosic biofuels, plug-in electric vehicles and energy-related home improvements.

Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

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