The women of personal finance
08.08.08: Looking for good tax luck

Mileage related tax legislation popping up

Back when I worked on Capitol Hill, I loved election years.

No, it wasn't any fun if your employer was facing a tough re-election campaign. But from the day-to-day job standpoint, it was kind of nice, since your boss tended to leave town more than usual.

Lawmakers make it a point in election years to get out of D.C. early and often to press the flesh and beg for votes make their case to constituents that they should get to stay on Capitol Hill.

That means staffers are left to screw off do our jobs basically unsupervised. And you thought it was dangerous when the House and Senate were in session!

Legislative showmanship: The other by-product of election years is that a lot of bills get dropped in the hopper with the full knowledge that they will go nowhere fast.

Now I'm not saying that the sponsoring (or cosponsoring) Representative or Senator doesn't really, truly advocate whatever the bill proposes.

But I am saying that lawmakers know full well that proposed but not enacted bills also serve a valuable purpose.

By simply introducing a bill, they can tell voters, "Look at what I'm doing for you. I've introduced (or cosponsored) a bill to address your very concern!"

Cynical much? I prefer to say realistic.

And the reality is that measures introduced now, with Congress winding down, are more for show than passage. When lawmakers return to Washington in September, they'll have enough stuff on their plates to deal with -- can you say tax break extenders? -- before they head back home yet again for a final pre-Nov. 4 session of vote begging district meetings.

But the bills keep showing up.

Fuel_gauge_empty Proposed new driving deductions: With the price of fuel a major voter concern, it's not surprising that a couple of recently introduced measures deal with mileage tax breaks.

H.R. 6667, introduced July 30 by Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), would provide a deduction for the cost of fuel used to commute to and from work.

This tax break would be available to filers regardless of whether they itemized or claimed the standard deduction.

Campbell's proposal has 28 cosponsors and is awaiting a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee. You can read the Daily Pilot's story on Campbell's announcement of his bill here.

H.R. 6675, introduced by Rep. Robert E. Latta (R-Ohio), would increase the standard deductible mileage rate for people delivering meals to the elderly, disabled and at-risk individuals.

Currently, the deduction of volunteer driving for such nonprofit groups is limited to 14 cents per mile. Latta's bill would up that to 58.5 cents per mile, but apparently the increase is only for the bill's specified charitable efforts. It's not a blanket mileage deduction increase for all charity-related travel.

This measure, also introduced on July 30 and also pending in Ways and Means, doesn't yet have any cosponsors. You can read Latta's press release on the bill here.

Timing is everything: Now one or both of these proposals might just make some progress in the coming months. They might make it through the system on their own, or they might be tacked onto another bill that lawmakers will pass before final adjournment.

But I wouldn't hold my breath.

And I'd check back when the 111th Congress convenes in January. If both Latta and Campbell are returned to their D.C. offices, it'll be interesting to see if (or when in the new session) they re-introduce these measures.


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