Which Tax Extenders are Left?

January 11, 2016

Nearly every year, for over a decade, Congress has scrambled at the last minute to renew the tax extenders – dozens of temporary, constantly-expiring tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Now, the latest tax bill passed by Congress may put the saga of the tax extenders to rest once and for all.

The omnibus tax and spending bill that Congress passed at the end of December made over a third of the tax extenders into permanent law. Some of the most important tax extenders, including expanded section 179 expensing and the research tax credit, have now been made permanent. As a result, the stakes of this year’s tax extender negotiations will be much lower; it is possible that Congress will neglect to renew the remaining tax extenders altogether.

Which tax extenders will be up for renewal at the end of 2016? Last Friday, the Joint Committee on Taxation published a comprehensive list of sections of the tax code that are set to expire over the next few years. Because of the latest tax bill, there are now only 36 temporary provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2016, compared to the 52 that expired at the end of 2014. Most of the remaining tax extenders are relatively low-cost; according to recent JCT estimates, these 36 provisions are only expected to reduce federal revenue by about $17.7 billion a year.

The provisions expiring at the end of this year fall into three general categories:

1.      Renewable Energy Incentives

16 of the provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2016 are tax incentives for renewable energy. Most of these provisions are tax credits – for electric vehicles, biodiesel, residential energy equipment, and more. All in all, these provisions are expected to reduce tax revenues by at least $7.4 billion in 2016.

2.      Provisions for Homeowners

The two largest provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2016 are both targeted at homeowners. One of these provisions exempts some homeowners from being taxed on the amount they receive in mortgage loan forgiveness. The other allows homeowners to count mortgage insurance premiums towards their mortgage interest deductions. Extending these two provisions into 2016 is expected to cost $7.5 billion.

3.      Miscellaneous Provisions

The remaining 18 tax provisions are a grab bag of incentives for different economic interests, ranging from railroad companies to rum producers. These provisions are relatively minor; all together, they will reduce federal revenues by at least $2.8 billion in 2016. Notably, several of these provisions allow for more favorable depreciation schedules, which help shift the tax code towards full expensing.

Looking over the list below of remaining tax extenders, none of them seem like “must-pass” policies. As a result, the pressure is off of Congress to renew all of the tax extenders as a package. Instead, Congress should take the time to evaluate the remaining tax extenders one by one, making the good provisions permanent and letting the bad ones expire. Temporary tax policy is bad tax policy, and it’s about time that Congress laid the ritual of tax extenders to rest once and for all.

Tax Provisions Recently Extended to December 31, 2016

Cost of extending provision to 2016 (millions of dollars, over 2016-2025)

Credit for certain nonbusiness energy property


Credit for qualified fuel cell motor vehicles


Credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property


Credit for two-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles


Second generation biofuel producer credit


Incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel:

a.       Income tax credits for biodiesel fuel, biodiesel used to produce a qualified mixture, and small agri-biodiesel producers

b.      Income tax credits for renewable diesel fuel and diesel used to produce a qualified mixture

c.       Excise tax credits and outlay payments for biodiesel fuel mixtures

d.      Excise tax credits and outlay payments for renewable diesel fuel mixtures


Special depreciation allowance for second generation biofuel plant property


Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction


Credit for construction of new energy efficient homes


Beginning-of-construction date for non-wind renewable power facilities eligible to claim the electricity production credit or investment credit in lieu of the production credit


Incentives for alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures:

a.       Excise tax credits and outlay payments for alternative fuel

b.      Excise tax credits for alternative fuel mixtures


Discharge of indebtedness on principal residence excluded from gross income of individuals


Premiums for mortgage insurance deductible as interest that is qualified residence interest


Credit for production of Indian coal


Indian employment tax credit


Railroad track maintenance credit


Mine rescue team training credit


Qualified zone academy bonds: allocation of bond limitation


Three-year depreciation for race horses two years old or younger


Seven-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes


Accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation


Election to expense advanced mine safety equipment


Special expensing rules for certain film, television, and live theatrical productions


Deduction allowable with respect to income attributable to domestic production activities in Puerto Rico


Deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses


Special rule for sales or dispositions to implement Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") or State electric restructuring policy


Empowerment zone tax incentives

a.       Designation of an empowerment zone and of additional empowerment zones

b.      Empowerment zone tax-exempt bonds

c.       Empowerment zone employment credit

d.      Increased expensing under sec. 179

e.       Nonrecognition of gain on rollover of empowerment zone investments


Temporary increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax revenues (from $10.50 to $13.25 per proof gallon) to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands


American Samoa economic development credit


Note: This list of provisions is drawn from List of Expiring Federal Tax Provisions, 2016-2025, Joint Committee on Taxation. Revenue estimates are drawn from Estimated Budget Effects of Division Q of Amendment #2 to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2029, Joint Committee on Taxation.


Other Tax Provisions Expiring on December 31, 2016

Credit for residential energy property

Credit for hybrid solar lighting system property

Credit for geothermal heat pump property, small wind property, and combined heat and power property

Credit for qualified fuel cell and stationary microturbine power plant property

Five-year cost recovery for certain energy property

Medical expense deduction: adjusted gross income (AGI) floor for individuals age 65 and older (and their spouses) remains at 7.5 percent

Special rate for qualified timber gains

Note: This list of provisions is drawn from List of Expiring Federal Tax Provisions, 2016-2025, Joint Committee on Taxation.


Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation

Follow Us

About the Tax Policy Blog

Subscribe to Tax Foundation - Tax Foundation's Tax Policy Blog The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.

Monthly Archive