Swine Flu Tax Incentives Move Through Congress
A new package of anti-swine flu tax incentives was introduced in the House today.
The three-pronged package would provide a new tax credit for businesses that purchase liquid hand sanitizers, make it easier for state and local governments to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance swine flu first-response teams, and provide a new deduction for automobile air handlers.
The measure, called the Swine Flu Protection Act (SFPA), has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. “This package will help keep America safe from this insidious homeland security threat,” said Representative Hedley Lemarr (R-Tex.). “And make no mistake: This is not new spending,” he added.
An Obama Administration spokesman said this morning that the President may support the plan–or he may not—depending on which direction public opinion blows. He also insisted that the measure raise taxes on everyone making more than $250,000.
To be eligible for the credit, hand sanitizers would have to be American made, a provision that international tax experts argue may violate existing trade agreements. The proposal is also controversial because, like the health care exclusion, only businesses could claim the credit. Individuals could not.
The second provision would exempt swine flu first-responder bonds from state volume caps. Rapid response teams located in specially designated Flu Recovery Zones would be eligible for additional assistance through a taxable bond subsidy.
The auto credits would enhance the Administration’s green car initiative. The special air handlers would remove swine flu virus that is disseminated through coughs and sneezes. Thus, the device would protect a driver from passenger-generated infection. Buyers of Chrysler and GM cars would get the equipment whether they wanted it or not.
A $500 deduction would be available to buyers of new cars that include the equipment. However, purchasers would not be eligible if they have they have taken a new home-buyer tax credit, or if the car gets less than 25 miles per gallon. The deduction would be in addition to the above-the-line sales tax deduction for the purchase of new cars, but only for couples making $250,000 or less. Special provisions would be made for hybrids. The credit would be excluded from the Alternative Minimum Tax for 2010 only, but would be subject to the Administration’s proposed 28 percent cap on the value of deductions.
Sources say Senate Finance Committee ranking Republican Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) might support the package, but only if the word “swine” is removed from the title.