Baker, Legislative leaders strike deal to keep biz tax cut

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By Matt Murphy and Michael Norton

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE — Facing pressure from business groups over the Legislature’s surprise plan to repeal a corporate tax break to pay for an expansion of the earned income tax credit, Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced a deal with House and Senate leaders to preserve the deduction and still deliver on tax relief for low-income families.

With Baker poised to sign the budget Friday afternoon, the governor, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said they had an agreement to further delay the implementation of the FAS 109 tax deduction, which would be available to certain publicly traded corporations, for five years and increase the amount of time over which a company can claim the deduction from seven to 30 years.

The deal, according to officials, will create space in the budget to pay for an expansion of the earned income tax credit without repealing the FAS 109 deduction, which has never been implemented since its passage in 2008 as part of a deal with businesses over “combined reporting” tax reforms.

“We all agree that expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit is a critical tool to provide tax relief to over 400,000 low income individuals and working families and my administration believes in providing a stable, competitive business climate to encourage economic development across the Commonwealth,” Baker said in a statement.

House and Senate lawmakers must still vote to approve the deal, which Baker will likely return to the Legislature as a budget amendment. Under the budget Baker intends to sign, the state’s earned income tax credit will grow from 15 percent to 23 percent of the federal credit.

“I am proud to stand with Governor Baker and Senate President Rosenberg in supporting the EITC, a vital measure that provides much needed relief to the Commonwealth’s families, without imposing any new taxes or fees and overburdening members of the business community,” DeLeo said in a statement released by Baker’s office.

Said Rosenberg: “This agreement takes an important step in addressing income inequality in our state. As one of the original co-authors of the state Earned Income Tax Credit I am pleased we have increased the credit by more than 50 percent to help the hard working families of the Commonwealth. I look forward to working with the House and the Governor to increase the EITC to our initial target of 30 percent of the federal credit.”

Baker last week said he viewed trading the corporate tax deduction for tax relief to low-income workers as a “good thing.” In the ensuing days, business lobbyists have pressured the governor to come up with an alternative to repealing the deduction, which they claim will enable businesses to accurately reflect depreciation in the value of assets, for tax purposes.

In a letter Friday to Baker and legislative leaders, the top executives of four major business trade groups wrote: “Thank you again for listening to our concerns and working towards a compromise that all can support.”

According to Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the agreement “provides certainty for the state’s businesses regarding the FAS 109 deduction for several years, and such predictability is critical for economic growth and business development.”

Baker last week said he did not view repealing the FAS-109 deduction as a tax increase, while Massachusetts Taxpayers Association President Eileen McAnneny said she believed the repeal was a tax hike.