A tax break for NASCAR tracks and other motorsports facilities is among the “sweeteners” tucked inside a 450-page financial services bailout bill to make the package more palatable to lawmakers.
The Senate-approved bill includes an array of so-called “tax extenders” and other projects that added about $110 million to the $700 billion bailout – now up for a vote in the U.S. House.
One sweetener extends for two years a tax policy that expired in December 2007 classifying motorsports facilities as amusement parks and other entertainment complexes.
That classification allows tracks to write off their capital investments over a seven-year period. The motorsports industry feared that without a specific clarification in law, they would be required to depreciate their capital investment over 15 years or longer because of a recent Internal Revenue Service inquiry into the matter.
The provision would reduce their overall tax bill in the years immediately following their investment.
It isn't a new tax break, rather the way tax law has been historically interpreted, said Lauri Wilks, vice president of communications for Speedway Motorsports, which owns the NASCAR track in Concord and others in Fort Worth, Texas, Sonoma, Calif., and elsewhere.
“It gives us incentive to go ahead and invest in our facilities,” she said.
Wilks said she couldn't put a dollar value on the legislation.
“Whether you pay all up front or depreciate them over time, the cash outlay is the same,” she said.
A bill extending the tax treatment had been previously introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and co-sponsored by a number of N.C. members including Reps. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, and Republican Robin Hayes of Concord – home to Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Both Thompson and Hayes voted against the original bank bailout bill on Monday, which didn't include the tax extenders added by the Senate and passed Wednesday. Neither has said how they would vote when the House takes up the new bailout bill, likely today. But both said they were not involved in getting the Senate to add the tax break to the bailout.
Some watchdog groups are opposed to loading up the bailout bill with unrelated items.
“Unfortunately it took a legitimately historic piece of legislation that lawmakers on principle could vote for or against it and they just loaded it up with business as usual, a huge tax package not related at all to the bailout and crammed it over to the House,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “And it's going to be interesting to see whether this turns any votes or not.”