Order Code RS22488
August 3, 2006
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Lesser-Known Tax Provisions in H.R. 5970
(Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act
American Law Division
H.R. 5970, passed by the House on July 28, 2006, is gaining headlines as the
“trifecta bill” containing three important legal changes: estate tax reduction, a minimum
wage increase, and the extension of expiring tax provisions. The bill also contains a
number of tax amendments that are receiving little public attention and a title amending
the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. This report summarizes the tax
provisions in the bill, emphasizing the less-publicized tax provisions in Title II, Subtitle
B. It does not cover Title III, amending the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation
Act, or Title IV, amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. For more detail on the estate
and gift tax, see CRS Report RL32818, Estate Tax Legislation in the 109th Congress,
by Nonna A. Noto, and CRS Report RL30600, Estate and Gift Taxes: Economic Issues,
by Jane G. Gravelle and Steven Maguire. For more detail on the extender provisions,
see CRS Report RL32367, Temporary Tax Provisions (“Extenders”) Expired in 2005,
by Pamela J. Jackson. For more detail on the Fair Labor Standards Act, see CRS Report
RL33401, The Fair Labor Standards Act: Minimum Wage in the 109th Congress, by
William G. Whittaker.
Title I — Estate and Gift Tax. H.R. 5970 reunifies the estate and gift tax so that
the unified credit applies to taxable gifts made by an individual during his or her life and
taxable transfers made by his or her estate at death. The bill gradually increases the
exclusion amount from $3,750,000 in 2010 to $5,000,000 in 2015 and beyond. If the
taxpayer is unable to benefit from the full exclusion, the excess may be used by the
surviving spouse. Also under the bill, beginning in 2010, the taxpayer’s combined taxable
transfers of up to $25,000,000 are taxed at the capital gains tax rate, with the excess taxed
at a flat rate that gradually declines from 40% in 2010 to 30% in 2015 and beyond. For
years after 2015, both the $5,000,000 and $25,000,000 amounts are adjusted for inflation.
Among other things, the bill also makes permanent the repeal of the state death tax
deduction and the qualified family-owned business deduction.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Title II, Subtitle A — Extenders. Sections 201 to 223 of the bill primarily
extend various expiring tax provisions.
Extended through 2007: the deduction for qualified tuition and related
expenses; the deduction for state and local sales taxes; the research and
development credit (the bill makes other changes, including increasing
the rates for the alternative incremental credit and creating an alternative
simplified credit); the work opportunity tax credit and welfare-to-work
tax credit (the bill consolidates the two credits); the election to treat
combat pay as earned income for the earned income tax credit; the
authority to issue qualified zone academy bonds; the deduction for
expenses of school teachers; the provision allowing brownfields
remediation costs to be expensed (the bill also extends the provision to
the cleanup of petroleum products); the designation of the District of
Columbia as an enterprise zone and the authority to issue tax-exempt
bonds; the zero percent capital gains rate for qualified D.C. assets; the
first-time D.C. homebuyers credit; the Indian employment tax credit; the
provision allowing accelerated deprecation for business property on
Indian reservations; the provision allowing 15-year straight-line cost
recovery for qualified leasehold improvements; the provision suspending
the limitation on the excise tax cover over on rum to Puerto Rico and the
U.S. Virgin Islands; the requirement group health plans provide mental
health benefits parity; the enhanced charitable contribution deduction for
corporate donations of computer technology equipment; the authority for
Archer medical savings accounts; the suspension of the percentage
depletion method’s income limitation for oil and natural gas produced
from marginal properties; a limited credit for conducting economic
activity in American Samoa; the authority to use certain funds for IRS
undercover operations; the provisions allowing IRS disclosure of
taxpayer information to facilitate combined employment tax reporting
and for reasons relating to terrorist activities or income-contingent
student loan repayment.
Extended through 2008: the new markets tax credit.
Extended through 2009: deadline for placing certain Gulf Opportunity
Zone property in service in order to be eligible for bonus depreciation.
The bill repeals New York Liberty Zone provisions providing for bonus
depreciation, additional section 179 expensing, and five-year depreciation
of leasehold improvements. It creates a credit against the withholding tax
in IRC § 3402 for qualified New York governmental units. The credit is
based on the units’ expenditures for certain transportation infrastructure
projects, with credits allocated to each qualifying governmental unit. No
credits may be allocated after 2021, and the total amount of credits
allocated between 2007 and 2021 may not exceed $1,750,000,000 (each
year during this period is also subject to a limitation).
Title II, Subtitle B — Other Provisions. IRC § 199 allows a deduction for
income attributable to domestic production activities. Examples of these activities are
selling property manufactured or produced in the United States, performing construction
activities in the United States, and selling electricity, natural gas, or potable water
produced by the taxpayer in the United States. The deduction is limited to 50% of the
wages paid by the taxpayer allocable to such activities. Section 231 of the bill treats
Puerto Rico as part of the United States so long as the taxpayer’s gross receipts from
sources within Puerto Rico are subject to U.S. taxation. The provision is effective for the
first two taxable years beginning after December 31, 2005, and before January 1, 2008.
One step in calculating a taxpayer’s liability under the alternative minimum tax is
adding back various tax preference items to his or her taxable income, as computed under
the regular income tax. Some of the adjustments result in the taxpayer losing the benefit
of tax deferral. In order to avoid double taxation (i.e., taxing the item in the current year
under the AMT and again in a future year under the regular income tax), these deferral
adjustments yield a minimum tax credit that the taxpayer may carry forward to reduce
regular income taxes in future years. Section 232 of the bill makes the minimum tax
credit partially refundable for unused credits that have been carried forward for a number
of years. The unused credit must be from taxable years beginning before January 1, 2013.
The refundable credit is phased out for higher-income individuals.
Under IRC § 6039, corporations involved in a transfer of stock options to an
individual must provide information about the transfer to the individual. Section 233
requires that the corporation file a return with the IRS in addition to providing
information to the person involved in the transfer.
Section 234 of the bill allows taxpayers to expense 50% of the cost of qualified mine
safety equipment property for use in a U.S. underground mine. The original use of the
property must commence with the taxpayer, and the property must be placed in service
before 2009. Section 235 creates a tax credit for employers based on the training program
costs of qualified mine rescue team employees. The credit equals 20% of the costs,
limited to $10,000, paid for each qualified employee (including wages while attending the
training program). The provision expires on December 31, 2008.
IRC § 7623 allows the IRS to pay sums to whistleblowers who provide information
that assists the IRS in detecting tax underpayment and other violations of the tax laws.
The award is based on the amount collected, other than interest. The IRS has set the
maximum award at 15% of the amount collected, which is reduced further depending on
the specificity of the information and its value in determining the tax liability. The
maximum award may not exceed $10 million. Section 236 makes several changes to the
whistleblower provision. Under the bill, if the provided information leads the IRS to
proceed with an administrative or judicial action, the award is between 15% and 30% of
the amount collected. The award is reduced if information from sources other than the
whistleblower was more useful to the IRS in proceeding with the action. These
provisions apply only if the action involves a disputed amount in excess of $2 million
and, if the taxpayer in the action is an individual, his or her gross income exceeds
$200,000. The section also requires the IRS to take initial steps with respect to creating
a Whistleblower Office to administer the award program. Further, section 236 creates an
above-the-line deduction for attorney’s fees and costs paid by an individual in connection
with providing the information and allows the individual to appeal the amount or denial
of an award to the U.S. Tax Court.
IRC § 6702 imposes a penalty of up to $500 on individuals who file a frivolous
income tax return. Section 237 of the bill increases the maximum penalty to $5,000 and
applies the penalty provision to all taxpayers and all federal taxes. In addition, the section
allows the IRS to impose a penalty of up to $5,000 on taxpayers who make frivolous
submissions for collection due process hearings, installment agreements, offers-incompromise and taxpayer assistance orders, unless the taxpayer withdraws the
submission. The section further authorizes the IRS to disregard such submissions.
Section 237 also requires that the IRS publish a list of frivolous positions, arguments,
requests, and submissions.
IRC § 4131 imposes an excise tax equal to 75 cents per dose on certain vaccines.
Section 238 adds the meningococcal and human papillomavirus vaccines to the list of
Settlement funds are sometimes established by agreement between the
Environmental Protection Agency and a private party to pay for the cleanup of hazardous
waste sites. Under IRC § 468B, as amended by the Tax Increase Prevention and
Reconciliation Act of 2005 (TIPRA, P.L. 109-222), qualifying settlement funds are
exempt from income tax. Section 239 of the bill makes this treatment permanent.
During a corporate division such as a spin-off, a distribution of stock in a controlled
subsidiary by a parent corporation to its shareholders is tax free to both the distributing
corporation and the shareholders if the requirements in IRC § 355 are met. One
requirement is that both the parent corporation and subsidiary must have engaged in the
active conduct of a trade or business for at least five years. Under TIPRA, the “active
conduct” test is determined looking at the activities of the entire affiliated group, and not
just the parent and subsidiary. Section 240 of H.R. 5970 makes the TIPRA provision
Under IRC § 143, the proceeds of qualified veterans’ mortgage bonds must be used
to make mortgage loans to qualified veterans. Only certain states may issue these bonds,
and they are limited in the amount that may be issued. TIPRA gradually increased the
limits for Alaska, Oregon, and Wisconsin so that the limit in 2010 for each state is $25
million, but the amount is reduced to zero for years after 2010. Section 241 of the bill
makes the $25 million limit permanent for these three states.
Prior to TIPRA, the sale of self-created musical works resulted in ordinary income.
TIPRA created a temporary rule that allows the taxpayer to treat the work as a capital
asset and, therefore, to be taxed on the gain from the sale at the applicable capital gains
rates. Section 242 of the bill makes the TIPRA provision permanent.
IRC §§ 1352 to 1359 provide special rules that allow corporations operating
qualified vessels involved in international shipping activities to pay a tax based on
tonnage as opposed to the corporate income tax. The vessel must be a U.S. flag vessel
of at least 10,000 deadweight tons and be used exclusively in foreign trade. Incidental use
in domestic trade is permitted if the operator provides notice to the IRS; however, if the
vessel is used for domestic trade for more than 30 days during the year, the vessel is no
longer treated as a qualified vessel. TIPRA lowered the 10,000 ton limitation to 6,000.
Section 243 of H.R. 5970 makes that provision permanent. Section 245 eases the rules
regarding notice and the 30 day limit for qualifying vessels operating in the Great Lakes
Waterway and St. Lawrence Seaway.
The arbitrage provision in IRC § 148 disallows the exemption of interest on state or
local government bonds if the proceeds are invested in higher-yield investments or if the
debt service on the bonds is secured by or paid from those investments. An exception has
existed since 1984 that allows the income from the investments of the Texas Permanent
University Fund to secure a limited amount of bonds issued by the state university
systems. Changes made to the Texas constitution in 1999 have resulted in the 1984
exception not accurately reflecting the relationship between the Fund and the systems, but
the IRS has agreed to continue to apply the 1984 exception through August 2007. TIPRA
extended the treatment through August 2009. Section 244 of H.R. 5970 makes the
Under IRC § 143, mortgage revenue bonds are tax-exempt bonds used to finance
below-market rate mortgages for low- and moderate-income homebuyers who have not
owned a home for the past three years. Section 246 waives the three-year requirement for
bonds used to finance residences for veterans. A veteran may only use the waiver once.
The provision applies to bonds issued between the bill’s date of enactment and January
Under IRC § 121, taxpayers may exclude from gross income up to $250,000
($500,000 if married filing jointly) of the gain realized from the sale of a principal
residence. One eligibility requirement is that the taxpayer must have used the property
as a principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the date of sale. A
taxpayer may elect to suspend the 5-year period for up to 10 years during the time that the
taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is on qualified official extended duty as a member of
the uniformed services or U.S. Foreign Service. Section 247 makes employees of the
intelligence community eligible to make the suspension election. The section applies to
sales made between the bill’s date of enactment and January 1, 2011.
IRC § 45K allows a credit for producing fuel from a non-conventional source. The
credit is phased out as the reference price of oil exceeds $23.50 per barrel (adjusted for
inflation). Special rules apply to facilities producing coke and coke gas. Section 248
clarifies that these facilities do not include those that produce coke or coke gas from
petroleum-based products and exempts them from the credit phase out.
IRC § 1043 allows officers and employees of the executive branch who must sell
property to comply with conflict-of-interest requirements to defer tax by reinvesting the
gain from the sale in certain investments. Section 249 extends the treatment to judicial
IRC § 163 allows a deduction for interest paid on acquisition indebtedness or home
equity indebtedness for the taxpayer’s residence. Section 250 treats qualified mortgage
insurance premiums as such interest for taxpayers with adjusted gross income below
$110,000. The treatment does not apply to mortgage insurance contracts issued before
January 1, 2007, or amounts paid after December 31, 2007.
IRC § 6427 allows a partial refund for the fuel excise taxes paid on kerosene if the
fuel is used for a non-taxable use. Generally, the ultimate purchaser may claim the refund
or may waive the refund so it may be claimed by the ultimate vendor. In the case of
noncommercial aviation, only the ultimate vendor may claim the refund. Section 251
changes the noncommercial aviation rule to allow the purchaser to claim the refund or
waive it so the ultimate vendor may claim it. The section also allows the ultimate
purchaser of kerosene used in aviation for a non-taxable farming purpose to claim a
refund for taxes paid on purchases made between December 31, 2004, and October 1,
2005, reduced by any refunds claimed by the ultimate vendor.
Under IRC § 631, a taxpayer may treat the gain from certain sales or other
dispositions of timber as capital gains, which are subject to lower tax rates than ordinary
income. Section 252 provides an above-the-line deduction of up to 60% of the taxpayer’s
qualified timber gain for the year, but the taxpayer must then treat the remaining 40% as
ordinary income. The provision applies to dispositions of timber prior to January 1, 2008.
Section 253 creates a new credit for holders of rural renaissance bonds. Among
other things, the bonds must be part of an issue of which at least 95% of the proceeds are
used for capital expenditures incurred for qualified projects. The bonds must also be
issued prior to January 1, 2010. Qualified projects include projects in rural areas for water
or waste treatment, affordable housing, community facilities, certain agriculture purposes,
distance learning or telemedicine, rural utility infrastructure, expanding broadband
technology, and teleworks. The credit would equal 25% of a deemed interest subsidy
determined by the Treasury Secretary. No more than $200,000,000 of bonds may be
IRC § 274(m)(3) disallows a deduction for travel expenses of an individual, such as
a spouse or dependent, accompanying a taxpayer on business travel unless the individual
is the taxpayer’s employee, the individual’s travel is for a bona fide business purpose, and
the expenses are otherwise deductible by the individual. Section 254 repeals the provision
Section 255 contains technical corrections clarifying IRS regulatory authority under
section 103(b) of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (P.L. 109222), relating to subpart F income, and authority to permit interest suspension under
section 903 of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-357).