"More cynically, some people say, if you just put it in for a year or two, then that keeps the lobbyists having to come back and wine-and-dine the congressmen to get it extended again, and maybe make some campaign contributions," said Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH, a consulting firm based in Riverwoods, Ill.
This year, the package of tax breaks has been caught up in a debate about overhauling the entire tax code. The two top tax writers in Congress — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. — have been pushing to simplify the tax code by reducing tax breaks and using the additional revenue to lower overall tax rates.
But their efforts have yet to bear fruit, leaving both tax reform and the package of temporary breaks in limbo. When asked how businesses should prepare, given the uncertainty, Camp said: "They need to get on board with tax reform, that's what they need to do."
Further complicating the issue, President Barack Obama has nominated Baucus to become U.S. ambassador to China, meaning he will soon leave the Senate, if he is confirmed by his colleagues.
As the Senate wound down its 2013 session, Democratic leaders made a late push to extend many of the tax breaks by asking Republican colleagues to pass a package on the floor of the Senate without debate or amendments. Republicans objected, saying it wasn't a serious offer, and the effort failed.
So should taxpayers count on these breaks as they plan their budgets for 2014?
"The best thing I would say is, budget accordingly," said Jackie Perlman, principle tax research analyst at The Tax Institute at H&R Block. "As the saying goes, hope for the best but plan for the worst. Then if you get it, great, that's a nice perk. But don't count on it."
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