- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2001

Businesses have been told the tax-cut plan supported by the White House is intended for individuals, but industries are lining up behind it anyway.
From oil wells to wineries, each has some part of the tax code they claim is either patently unfair or too complicated.
"By God, they can't not give us anything," said one business lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Publicly, industry executives have praised the $1.6 trillion tax cut proposed by President Bush. Privately, they say there is room at the table for business to benefit as well.
For the petroleum industry, one way to benefit would involve getting tax laws revised to allow the labor cost of drilling oil wells to be written off immediately, rather than depreciated as a capital investment.
Depreciation reform is also a big priority for software producers and consumers, who argue that the useful life of a computer program is far shorter than is currently projected by the IRS.
Of course, if the oil and gas and computer software industries benefit from a depreciation break, then the computer hardware people will seek one also, said one lobbyist.
"Once you start, its hard to know when to stop," the lobbyist said, adding such reform could cost anywhere from $300 billion to $800 billion over 10 years.
"Our concern is that if you open the door to the business community, the bill will get so loaded up it will not go anywhere," said Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute, an association of often midsized and mostly family-owned grocery stores and food markets.
FMI's chief goal this year has been to repeal the estate and gift taxes, a provision that happens to be part of Mr. Bush's tax cut plan.
Because many of FMI's members operate their stores as small businesses, they pay tax using the individual, not corporate, tax rates, and that means the across-the-board rate cut would help them tremendously, Mr. Hammonds said.
Almost one-third of the National Association of Manufacturers' (NAM) 14,000 members are also operated as small businesses, so the rate cuts are good for them, too. And Mr. Bush's proposal to make permanent the research and development tax credit is extremely helpful, said NAM's legislative liaison, Dorothy Coleman.
Beyond that, what NAM would really like to see is a repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT).
The AMT was created to prevent big businesses from using deductions and credits to zero out their tax liability, but NAM and other groups argue that it is hitting smaller companies and hurting all businesses that make legitimate use of provisions in the code.
"People are paying higher taxes right at the time they can least afford it," Mrs. Coleman said.
The Securities Industry Association wants tax breaks for pension investments.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers would like consumers to get a tax credit on the purchase of hybrid gas and electric automobiles.
Chicken farmers want tax credits expanded for the use of chicken manure as an energy source.
The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America would like imported wine and distilled spirits taxed when they leave customs, not when they are sold, to put domestic producers on equal footing with their foreign counterparts.
But the beer industry is taking a bolder approach, considering trying again this year to have the $18-per-barrel excise tax on beer cut in half.
"America's 80 million beer drinkers have carried the load of outdated, hidden taxes for too long," proclaims beertax.com, an Internet Web site sponsored by Anheuser-Busch.

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