I hate politics and politicians.
Today our country faces an economic crises. The Demo crats object to raising the debt ceiling unless there is a tax increase on the wealthy — most prominently repealing the “tax loopholes” for corporate jets. The Republicans object to any tax increases which may kill jobs. Stalemate!
In my opinion both parties are dead wrong. There are no tax loopholes for corporate jets, and thus there is no tax increase on the wealthy. It is all rhetoric. Here’s why.
The federal tax code allows us to deduct business expenses each year, including rent, utilities, etc. But if we purchase business equipment, we deduct its costs over the life of that asset. If a business buys a corporate jet for business use, it typically deducts the cost of the jet over 5 to 7 years. This is old, well established federal tax law.
The reason for this is Congress wanted to stimulate purchases of business equipment. So it passed tax incentives to motivate those purchases. It allowed part of the cost of the equipment to be deducted all in one year (up to a certain amount). It also allowed a small percentage of the cost of equipment to be a tax credit in the year of purchase. Another incentive allowed some equipment to depreciate more rapidly in early years.
Corporate jets that are used in business could qualify for some of these incentives. If they did, the taxes paid by the business were not reduced — they were merely deferred. I say that again for emphasis.
In general, the incentives did not reduce the overall taxes of the business — they simply deferred some until later years. Thus the hysteria surrounding this issue is misguided.
Further, doing away with these incentives could have unintended consequences. For example, government revenues would be decreased by the loss of income taxes from employees terminated by the companies that manufacture these planes — and the cost of their unemployment claims. Also, we would lose excise taxes that are paid by the business and manufacturers (excise taxes are imposed on tires, gasoline, etc). There could also be a reduction in revenue from property taxes for hangars and the planes, for landing fees, etc.
Finally, there is the obvious fact that expert tax advisers may achieve much the same tax result by restructuring the jet purchase in any number of ways — such as by leasing, etc. and other structures far too complex to address here.
Folks, the truth is the corporate jet issue is not an issue at all. It is insignificant in amount, it is almost entirely a deferral and not a tax savings, it may be avoided by carefully structured sales, and there are significant unintended consequences.
So when we address the issue of whether or not to raise the debt ceiling — and if, so under what conditions — we need to be able to do so clearly and without passion. The conversation about “tax loopholes” for the corporate jets of the rich is simply nonsense and needlessly inflames our passions into class warfare. It pits us against ourselves, which may be what the politicians intended.
The truth is that we need to address the core issue: Just how big do we want our government to be and how do we pay for that? Until we resolve that, we will remain prey to misinformation from politicians who are addicted to spending our money foolishly.