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'Rum Cliff' And Other Close Shaves In The Tax, Spending Deal

You might have thought the intense partisan negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff were all about who wins and who loses when it comes to taxes and government programs.

And that assessment would be essentially correct, but some of the winners might strike you as a bit odd.

Tucked away in the bill's obscure cul-de-sacs are a bevy of obscure tax and spending provisions. We picked the five for your perusal. Here goes:

-- NASCAR: Section 312 of the bill extends a provision that places National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing tracks in the same category as amusement parks for tax purposes. That allows owners to depreciate the cost of a new track in just seven years instead of the more common 15- to 39-year time frame. To qualify, a track must be a permanent facility and host an inaugural race within three years of completion. Estimates are that the tax break is worth $70 million to Daytona-based NASCAR.

-- Asparagus growers: The measure includes a provision that extends "market loss assistance" for asparagus producers who are being hurt by low-cost asparagus coming in from South America. The subsidy amounts to $15 million a year - half going to fresh-market asparagus production and the other half to processed or frozen production.

-- Hollywood: Section 317 of the bill retroactively extends (for a total of two years) "special expensing rules" to certain film and television producers. The cost of the production can't exceed $15 million (or $20 million if the production is in a designated low-income area) as long as three-quarters of the production is done inside the United States. The rule allows production expenses to be deducted in the year they occur instead of depreciated over a period of years. The break is meant to encourage U.S.-based productions. It's expected to cost the government $266 million this year.

-- Rum tax: The bill extends by two years a $13.50 per proof-gallon tax on rum. The revenue from the tax goes into the coffers of the treasuries of the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, Puerto Rico raked in $371 million from the tax in 2008, while the USVI received almost $100 million. The New York Times reported in 2010 that the origin of the tax dates back nearly a century:

Because rum producers in the islands are exempt from federal excise taxes, the government imposed an "equalization tax" on Puerto Rican rum producers in 1917 and gave the money to the commonwealth. In 1954, the United States extended the arrangement to the Virgin Islands.

For half a century, the program allowed the islands to replenish their depleted treasuries and pay for infrastructure, schools and social services. Puerto Rico used less than 10 percent of the $450 million it received last year to provide marketing support and production subsidies to rum companies, according to government officials, leaving the rest for the island.

-- Electric scooters: The bill extends a tax credit for qualified two- or three-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles, amounting to 10 percent of the cost of the vehicle up to $2,500. The vehicle must be "manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways," be capable of reaching 45 mph and be powered by a minimum four kilowatt-hour battery (up from 2.5 kilowatt-hours previously). The retroactive extension is good until Jan. 1, 2014.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Auction Of Artifacts In Paris Stirs Protest At American Indian Museum In D.C.

"It's almost like seeing one of our own tribal members being auctioned off," says a member of California's Hoopa tribe who denounced the auction during an event at the National Museum of the American Indian.

NPR

We Don't Know How Many Workers Are Injured At Slaughterhouses. Here's Why

Injuries in the meat industry are likely to be under-reported, a new GAO report finds. Workers may be sent back to the line without seeing a doctor, or may not report out of fear of losing their jobs.
WAMU 88.5

Power Plant Fight In Prince George's County

A predominantly African American community in rural Prince George's County recently filed a federal civil rights complaint in response to plans to build a third power plant in one town, and fifth in the region.

NPR

Reports Peg Tech Billionaire As Funder Of Hulk Hogan's Case Against Gawker

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel is said to be bankrolling the ex-wrestler's lawsuit. Gawker is appealing a jury verdict that awarded Hogan $140 million over the 2012 publication of a sex tape.

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