The Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday to add a half-billion-dollar sweetener for business to the tax bill passed by the House, in the form of faster depreciation write-offs designed to spur more investment in new facilities.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen (D-Tex.), is a scaled-back version of a plan suggested earlier by Federal Reserve Board Chairman G. William Miller. Miller had proposed a cut of about $5 billion.
There was no immediate indication how yesterday's action would affect the committee's plans to enlarge the other tax cuts for business included in the House bill.
Most observers had figured that if the panel approved faster write-offs for depreciation, it would earmark these as a replacement for at least some of the cuts in corporate tax rates voted by the House.
Although the Betsen provision would cost $513 million a year at first, by 1983 it would drain $3 billion a year in Treasury revenues. The impact during fiscal 1979, which begins Oct. 1, would be $200 million.
The committee also voted yesterday to more than double the amount of industrial development bonds that state and local governments may issue tax-free - raising this to $2 million an offering, or $12 million over a six-year period.
And it defeated, by 9 to 4, a proposal by Sen. Floyd Haskell (D-Colo.) that would have extended the present jobs tax credit for business. The panel simplified it to make it more attractive to small business.
The Carter administration had opposed a full-fledged extension, in favor of a House-passed provision that would "target" the jobs credit by limiting it to hiring of inner-city youths Haskell's proposal would have cost $1.4 billion.
Industrial development bonds are securities a state or locality issues to underwrite construction of facilities to attract or expand business, such as an industrial park. Present limits are $1 million an issue, or $5 million over six years.
The committee also approved a proposal by Haskell giving the Internal Revenue Service $3 million to beef up its taxpayer assistance efforts for the elderly, and to study how to simplify their tax returns.
And it agreed to ask the Treasury to look into the question of whether the United States can tax foreign citizens who buy and sell real estate here. Under present law, such persons are exempt from capital gains taxes.
The Finance Committee still has not acted on the major provisions of the tax bill passed by the House, including the tax reductions for individuals, which the White House wants revamped.
The delays have been so prolonged that some observers now are skeptical the panel will be able to complete its consideration of the House bill this week, as committee leaders had intended.
The committee failed to resolve a dispute over its earlier vote to enlarge the earned-income credit for the working poor. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind.-Va.) has objected to the move as creating "an additional welfare benefit."
The provision affecting business depreciation would enable companies to write off the cost of new machinery and equipment 30 percent faster than their average useful life, rather than 20 percent, as Congress voted before.
The impact of the provision would be to provide a tax incentive for business to invest. Depreciation schedules vary among industries, but if a firm's production called for a 10-year write-off, it could cut this to 7 years.
The 20 percent limit enacted in 1971, after the Nixon administration proposed the move as a way to spur capital spending. The measure at that time was opposed vehemently by liberals as a giveaway to big corporations.
In other developments yesterday, the Senate Budget Committee published its annual survey of "tax expenditures," or tax breaks affecting various sectors of the economy, showing 84 separate provisions costing $136 billion a year.
Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine), chairman of the panel, said the listing showed Congress should review such tax breaks more closely as part of the overall budget process.