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On December 16, 2014, the Senate followed the House of Representatives and passed tax extender legislation that is expected to be signed by the President. The final package that passed would retroactively extend incentives that expired on December 31, 2013, through the end of 2014. It does not extend the incentives through the end of 2015, as Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and other leaders would have liked.

The final tax extender package includes important incentives for the biofuels industry, including the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, as well as the biofuel production tax credit for cellulosic and algae-based biofuels and the special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property.

 

 

On December 1, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, more commonly referred to as the tax extender bill. This bill extends through 2014 the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, as well as the biofuel production tax credit for cellulosic and algae-based biofuels and the special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property. While the Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance is reportedly still working to pass a tax extender bill that would extend these expiring incentives beyond 2014, especially given the fact that the Senate is expected to adjourn for the year today, chances are that the Senate will pass tax extender legislation similar to the House-passed version. If that happens and the President enacts it, these tax credits will be retroactively effective for the entire year of 2014 as the prior tax credits had expired on January 1, 2014. There continues to be uncertainty about the future of the tax credits, as this bill will expire on January 1, 2015, with no guarantee of renewal.

 

 

During the next state legislative session, which begins in January, Iowa's Economic Development Agency will reportedly seek approximately $20 million in new incentives for companies that use chemicals derived from ethanol production to produce biobased products. The Agency reportedly believes sufficient incentives exist to promote biofuel development in Iowa. This new incentive would be needed to help further the biobased economy in the State. More information on this effort is available in The Des Moines Register news story "Biochem Tax Credit Pitched By Economic Agency."


 

On September 19, 2014, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014 (H.R. 5559), which was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill would extend clean energy tax incentives, including those benefiting the biofuel and bioenergy industries. Among the tax credits being extended are the second generation biofuel producer credit, the $1.00 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel, and the Section 45 renewable energy production tax credit. More information is available online.


 

On May 15, 2014, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a procedural measure that would have allowed for that body to consider and vote on S. 2260, the "Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act," the package of tax extenders approved by the Senate Finance Committee in April. The EXPIRE Act includes extensions through December 31, 2015 (and retroactive to January 1, 2014), of the following key biofuels incentives that have expired: the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit; the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. A copy of the EXPIRE Act is available online. A summary of the bill is also available online.


The EXPIRE Act has broad bipartisan support among Senators. The vote on cloture to end debate on the bill and pave the way for Senate consideration failed last week because the Senate Republican and Democratic leadership had a fundamental disagreement over whether and which amendments could be offered to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) preserved his right to bring the bill up again for consideration. Senator Reid could do so soon if the leaders are able to agree on rules for offering amendments to the bill. The bill is widely expected to be considered later this year, however, during a lame duck session following the November elections. It is important that the Senate passes tax extender legislation that includes energy incentives in order to help ensure they are included in the final bill. The House of Representatives is expected to consider a smaller package of tax extenders that will likely not include the retroactive biofuels incentives so important to the industry.
 


 

On May 21, 2014, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) signed into law Senate Bill 2344, legislation to help promote the biofuels industry in the State. A copy of the legislation is available online. It extends the biodiesel production tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of 2014, enhances Iowa's E-15 retailer tax credit, and adds biobutanol as a renewable fuel option. This law reinforces Iowa's ongoing support for the biofuels industry.


 

The U.S. Senate is expected to consider its version of tax extender legislation, S. 2260, the "Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act," as early as next week. On April 3, 2014, the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of the EXPIRE Act. The EXPIRE Act includes extensions through December 31, 2015 (and retroactive to January 1, 2014), of the following key biofuels incentives that have expired: the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit; the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. A copy of the EXPIRE Act is available online. A summary of the bill is also available online.


 

On April 8, 2014, House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) held a hearing on the "Benefits of Permanent Tax Policy for America's Job Creators." The hearing focused on the expiring business tax provisions that are made permanent or extended under Camp's recently released discussion draft of the "Tax Reform Act of 2014" (TRA). Unlike his Senate counterpart -- Senate Committee on Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) -- Camp is not very supportive of passing a tax extender package to extend retroactively the approximately 50 incentives that expired at the end of 2013, including several for advanced biofuels development. In fact, the TRA would eliminate most clean energy incentives. The House Ways and Means Hearing Advisory is available online.


Last week, the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of tax extender legislation, the "Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act." The EXPIRE Act includes extensions through December 31, 2015 (and retroactive to January 1, 2014) of the following key biofuels incentives that have expired: the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit; the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. A copy of the EXPIRE Act is available online. A summary of the bill is available online.


Whether a tax extenders package will pass this year depends on several factors. It is likely to be more difficult to pass in the House of Representatives than in the Senate.
 


 

On March 24, 2014, seven leading biofuel trade associations sent a letter to Senate Committee on Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- as the Committee works to develop a tax extenders bill -- urging the retroactive extension of the following biofuel incentives, which expired on December 31, 2013: the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. A copy of the letter is available online.


The letter stresses that the advanced biofuels industry is at a critical stage of development and is a critical innovation sector that depends on the incentives and their stability for continued development. It also points out that the continued availability of the tax credits is needed to continue to attract development of advanced biofuels and their associated jobs in the U.S.
 


 

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) and U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) are expected to take different approaches to tax reform this year. Camp has stated publicly his intent to focus solely on comprehensive tax reform, which he and his staff have been working on for over a year. He is expected to release a discussion draft of comprehensive tax reform legislation in the coming months.


Meanwhile, newly designated Chair Wyden has publicly expressed support for the idea of comprehensive tax reform, but is expected to focus his near term efforts on passing legislation retroactively to extend several renewable energy incentives that expired at the end of 2013. These incentives include tax credits for the production of biofuels, including cellulosic and biodiesel. Senate Finance Committee Members Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have recently introduced legislation to extend the expired $1 per gallon biodiesel incentive, which could be included in a more comprehensive tax extender package.


Given this election year, as well as the divergent approaches of the two Chairmen of the tax writing committees, it will likely be difficult to get comprehensive tax reform legislation and possibly even a tax extender package passed in 2014.
 


 
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