WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) pressed Congress Friday to eliminate tax breaks and loopholes benefitting NASCAR, Hollywood and other special interest groups.
Coburn filed an amendment Thursday that "creates a deficit neutral reserve fund to eliminate the special interest tax breaks for the PGA tour, the NFL, NASCAR, Hollywood, Fish Tackle Box, and whaling captains." The amendment is part of the Senate's budget vote-a-rama -- a marathon session of votes in which dozens of amendments will come to the Senate floor Friday and most likely trickle into Saturday morning.
The NASCAR loophole was established in 2004 and extended by legislation to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. At the time, many criticized the fiscal cliff deal for slashing take-home pay for millions of American workers while retaining billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways.
The NASCAR tax break grants a small tax benefit to owners of motorsports complexes to accelerate their depreciation expenses, or write off more in expenses, such as investments in their property, over a seven year period, reducing the taxes they must pay. Proponents argue that the break enables owners of the association to compete on a level playing field with other theme parks, typically on a similar seven-year schedule.
But the cost of helping them do so is high, especially at a time when Congress has picked apart the budget for every dollar it can save.
The NASCAR loophole will cost taxpayers an estimated $46 million in 2013 and an additional $95 million through 2017, according to The Joint Committee on Taxation. Meanwhile, the tax burden for the average worker will increase by about $1,000 in 2013 due to Congress' willingness to let the payroll tax cut expire, a loss that affects approximately 160 million people.
Coburn spokesman John Hart said the Oklahoma senator wants to highlight the "sheer stupidity of the tax code."
"The tax code is littered with special interest earmarks," Hart told The Huffington Post, adding that both Democrats and Republicans have a history of supporting giveaways. "We can't have any sacred cows."
Coburn was one of the few members of the Senate Finance Committee who voted against the special interest tax breaks last August, when the committee approved the measures in a 19-5 vote. The Oklahoma senator ultimately voted for the fiscal cliff deal, but criticized the inclusion of what he called "tax goodies for special groups."
"I'm sure there were people on both sides that wanted it in [the fiscal cliff deal]," Coburn told the LA Times. "You have people calling for fairness, but they want to protect the wealthy or their supporters. And that's on both sides of the aisle."