The Senate passed a $29.3 billion tax cut bill yesterday that contains an average 11 percent reduction for individuals and additional cuts for corporations and high-income investors.
The vote was 86 to 4.
The action came after the Senate voted for its third reduction this week in corporate tax rates, and agreed on accelerated depreciation write-offs for small business and an enlarged tax break for older home sellers.
The lawmakers also refused, by a vote of 82 to 10, to cut back a recommendation by the Senate Finance Committee for a $2.6 billion reduction in capital gains taxes, which primarily would benefit high-income persons, and which President Carter opposes.
In addition, they refused to repeal more business tax deductions for entertainment and meals, theater tickets, first-class air fares and other expenses. Carter had sought repeal as part of his tax "reform" plan. That vote was 70 to 22.
Carter did win one "reform" fight: the Senate refused, mostly on procedural grounds, to kill his proposal to repeal the present deduction for state and local gasoline taxes. The vote to repeal was 49 to 42. Both Senate and House have now voted to repeal.
Many of the tax cuts in the bill are expected to be revised or scrapped in a House-Senate conference committee, where the bill must be reconciled with a $16.3 billion measure approved by the House before Congress goes home this weekend.
However, unless the legislation can be trimmed back sharply, it could face a presidential veto. Carter has decried the bill as a budget buster, and opposes the capital gains cuts and a provision granting college tuition tax credits. Among other things, he says these latter provisions give too much tax relief to the rich.
The tax cuts for individuals contain all the reductions passed by the House - primarily rate reductions plus an increase in the $750 personal exemption to $1,000 for each taxpayer and all dependents.
In addition, the Senate bill would provide an extra $5.8 billion in reductions for low-income and middle-income taxpayers by increasing the earned income credit for the working poor and lowering tax brackets further in the $10,000 to $30,000 range.
For a family of four earning $12,500 a year, the Senate bill would provide a tax cut of $206 next year compared to $125 for the House measure. In the $25,000 bracket, the cut would be $372, rather than $290.
In a Democratic version of the GOP Roth-Kemp tax cutplan, the Senate bill also would provide further tax cuts automatically each year between 1980 and 1983 that the government succeeded in meeting targets for holding down spending.
However, the Senate's largest would increase the budget deficit.The fullyear cost of the Senate bill is $10 billion over what Carter requested. And the fiscal 1979 cost is right at the ceiling set by Congress' own budget for all tax cuts.
More important, this cost would mushroom in later years. Rough estimates show that by 1983, the bill passed last night would cost $125 billion, compared to $32.3 billion for the House bill.
The size and shape of the tax bill yesterday appeared to pose a dilemma for Carter, who has been trying to head off a veto, which would require calling Congress back for a lame-duck session and possibly risking even more generous legislation.
The president has invited Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.) chairman of the tax bill this morning.
The House-Senate tax conference committee is scheduled to begin its work tomorrow.
Advocates of tax revision were critical of the Senate measure. Robert M. Brandon, director of Ralph Nader's Tax Reform Research Group, called the bill "a major step backward for tax reform, and the worst piece of tax legislation since Richard Nixon worked his will on the tax system in 1971."
The Senate's refusal to cut back the size of the Finance Committee's proposed reductions in capital gains taxes came on a motion by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to continue the present capital gains tax rates instead of lowering taxes for investors.
The Finance Committee had recommended that the Senate exempt 70 percent of a capital gain from taxation, rather than 50 percent as under current law. A capital gain is the profit from the sale of stock or property.
Kennedy argued that retaining the present rates would reduce the cost of the bill and bring it into line with the budget. He also contended that the reduction would be inequitable, since it would primarily benefit high-income persons.
The senators also voted down another Kennedy motion to repeal most of the existing deductions that businesses may claim for spending on meals and other entertainment - a key portion of Carter's tax "reform" program.
The bill passed last night would end deductions only for the cost of maintaining yachts, hunting lodges and club memberships for entertaining employes and clients.
The Senate's action involving the homeowners' tax break effectively scrapped a House-passed proposal that would have allowed all home sellers a once-a-lifetime chance to claim $100,000 in profit tax free.
Instead, the Senate merely widened to $100,000 the present $35,000 exclusion now allowed for elderly homeowners over 65, and vote to make it available to those 55 and older. Younger persons, covered by the House-passed provision, would not benefit under the Senate plan.
The new faster depreciation write-off voted for small business yesterday replaced a broader rapid-write-off plan proposed by the Finance Committee that would have mainly benefited large corporations.
The new provision, sponsored by Sen. Gaylor Nelson (D.-Wis.), would allow companies to depreciate the first $25,000 of new machinery and equipment in three yyears, instead of the much longer period prescribed for most categories of equipment by the Internal Revenue Service.
Large corporations would continue to be bound on their remaining machinery by the current "asset depreciation range" provision, which allows them to shorten the IRS-prescribed write-off period by 20 percent.
In place of the original Finance Committee depreciation proposal, however, the Senate voted a new $1.7 billion cut in business taxes that would slash corporate tax rates 1 percentage point a year, to 44 percent in 1981.
The Finance Committee originally had recommended cutting corporate tax rates to 46 percent, down from the current 48 perrcent level. In the past few days, the Senate has twice voted more generous corporate rate reductions.
In other action yesterday, the Senate also defeated, 50 to 41, a proposal by Sen. John Glenn (D.-Ohio) that would have required periodic review of the provisions in the tax bill. Earlier, Glenn had tried to get the Senate to agree to make major provisions of the tax code expire automatically unless Congress specifically renewed them, but was unsuccessful on that as well.
The Senate also approved a proposal by Sen. Henry Bellmon (R.-Okla.) that would allow independent oil and gas producers an estimated $30 million in rebates on the minimum tax they were temporarily required to pay last year. The producers were made subject to the minimum tax in the 1976 Tax Reform Act, but Congress reversed itself the following year and exempted them.
IN the voting yesterday, all four Maryland and Virginia senators voted against the Kennedy proposal to trim back the bill's cut in capital gains taxes. On the proposal to increase the cut in corporate tax rates, Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) opposed the provision, while Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) and Virginia's two senators supported it.