Depreciation, Digital Economies, Carbon, and Oil

Appreciation for depreciation is really, really expensive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the House Ways and Means Committee easily approved permanent restoration of bonus depreciation for capital investment yesterday. The Committee’s party-line vote would make permanent a measure to let companies write off more than half the cost of  investments in the same year they are made. The break, which had expired at the end of 2013, has a ten-year price tag of $263 billion. But it is neither paid for, nor is it proven to contribute to economic growth. TPC’s Howard Gleckman ponders the break’s strange journey, and considers some tax reforms paths not taken.

A European Union panel wants to reform taxation of the digital economy. A seven-member EU panel recommends that any new tax regime should be adapted to the digital economy. It backed a destination-based Value-Added Tax for digital services and recommends that the levy eventually be extended to all goods and services. Taxation, it said, should be “simple, stable and predictable.” It also recommends that the EU adopt a single stance on tax avoidance, so that EU members are not pitted against one another due to differential tax rates. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, for example, have leveraged Ireland’s tax rules to avoid higher rates elsewhere.

It’s cap-and-trade time for coal-fired plants in the United States. On Monday, expect President Obama to release his plan to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent. New regulations set by the EPA will require companies to use cap-and-trade programs to reduce pollution: These are, in practice, carbon taxes that place a limit on CO2 pollution, but create markets for companies to buy or sell permission to pollute.

But it’s tax-incentive time for oil producers in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that renews and modifies an oil industry incentive program, setting an oil production tax at 2 percent for the first three years of production. Without the bill, the tax would have risen to 7 percent. The tax had originally been lowered to 1 percent for the first four years of horizontal drilling, The new 2 percent rate will now apply to both horizontal and vertical drilling.

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