Meet the ‘Tax Extenders’

How an oddball collection of temporary tax breaks became an unkillable $85 billion ritual.

By Brian Faler, Politico.

This fall, a strange-looking package of tax breaks is likely to come before Congress. If the past is any indication, it’s going to be pushed through at the very last minute, just as lawmakers are getting ready to leave for their Christmas recess. There’s a break for Puerto Rican rum, one for NASCAR tracks and another that rewards corporate research and development spending. And one of them—this is not a typo—is an exception to an exception to an exception to a tax rule. It benefits multinational banks.

Insiders call them the “tax extenders,” a knot of handouts large and small that moves totally separate from the tax code and has become an illustration of just why the federal budget is so hard to manage—or even to understand.

This year’s batch, which the Senate wants to renew for two years, is projected to cost more than $85 billion. Though tax experts scoff at many of the provisions, they’re rubber-stamped with minimal scrutiny or debate. And though they’re considered temporary, they’re rarely allowed to die.