Fiscal cliff deal has hidden NASCAR perk

A roughly $70 million tax break for racetracks is among the incentives packed into the bill's final version.

By Jason Notte Jan 3, 2013 2:00PM

NASCAR is getting some help from the fiscal cliff deal, but are taxpayers really surprised that a debate that went around in circles for weeks resulted in some racetrack funding?


The fiscal cliff bill included an extension of the so-called NASCAR loophole that allows anyone who builds a racetrack to get a slight tax benefit by accelerating the depreciation on that property. In this case, racetracks can deduct more expenses and write down costs over seven years instead of the more typical 15- to 39-year period. It has been spelled out under section 168(i)(15) of the federal tax code since 2004.


This has cost about $43 million over the past two years, but racing and NASCAR supporters like Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) believe it's a necessary correction tax code that "treats one theme park differently from other theme parks."


International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which was created by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. to build the racing league's tracks, insists that the loophole also discourages track builders from asking local governments for sales tax increases, hotel tax increases and other public funding typically used to pay for construction of sporting venues.


"We are an industry that regularly buys and replaces real property and regularly pays corporate taxes," ISC spokesman Charles Talbert wrote in an e-mail to Yahoo Sports. "We also use private money to finance our operations, choosing not to ask locals or business travelers to pay our freight."


It's that local element that made the raceway loophole an element of the fiscal cliff bill to begin with. Given the heated debate over this legislation, representatives were even more interested in what was in it for their district if they compromised on a few key points. As a result, the bill was reportedly stuffed with extras like a rum tax for Puerto Rico, a $9 billion tax break for banks and corporations, public transportation and subsidies for Hollywood films and incentives for using electric scooters.


The NASCAR bill stands out not only because it conjures images of colorful, sponsor-laden cars making left turns at high speed, but because early reports put the cost of the break at $70 million in lost tax revenue for a one-year extension. According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation reported by Huffington Post, however, the loophole will cost taxpayers $46 million this year and another $95 million through 2017.


Though Talbert says the industry is just trying to preserve a tax law it's come to depend upon, it's also spending a whole lot of cash and political clout to do so. International Speedway Corp alone has spent more than $1.1 million lobbying Congress since 2008, according to lobbying disclosure forms. NASCAR spent more than $300,000 during that span on lobbying efforts, which included a push to "make permanent the depreciation classification."


More recently, NASCAR officials, including chief executive Brian France and president Mike Helton, helped raise funds for Republican nominee Mitt Romney during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year.


Is all the political wrangling worth it for the racing industry? Absolutely. Building a racetrack is an expensive undertaking, with International Speedway's Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., costing $130 million to build before it opened in 2001. The 375-acre Circuit of the Americas Formula One racetrack in Austin, Texas, cost $400 million to build and just opened this year.


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70Comments
Jan 3, 2013 4:44PM
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How about posting who added this pork to the bill?  Then we could at least write and protest publically.
Jan 3, 2013 4:38PM
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Just another example of congress taking care of the rich, does our country really need to be paying for race tracks when our infrastructure is falling apart
Jan 3, 2013 4:33PM
Jan 3, 2013 4:52PM
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The lack of true leadership in this country is saddening.  There seems to be fewer and fewer folks who understand and/or care about abuses like this.  Empathy and ignorance allows this behavior to continue.
Jan 3, 2013 5:18PM
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As much as I can't stand Donald Trump, maybe he was right, march on Washington and lets take this

country back while we can still save it. Congress no longer represents the people, just their own interests

and how much money they can make. Everyone is now making less money, but congress gets a raise.

  When are people going to wake up and get together and do something? Everyone gripes about

what is going on, but what is done about it? Nothing..........I finally agree with Donald Trump on

 something.............everyone march on Washington and demand different people in congress.

 

Jan 3, 2013 4:46PM
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 I thought this was a bill to save money and help the national debt so how do these perks help
Jan 3, 2013 5:13PM
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Building a racetrack is expensive... no arguement there but it is the cost of doing business and under no circumstance should the taxpayer have to subsidize it. I am an avid race fan but I think it is ludicrous that nascar has its hand out for federal tax breaks. The statement that it helps them avoid asking for local taxes is absurd too. If you don't have the money to build it and make it profitable then it does not need to be done. Dip your hand into your own pockets or the pockets of the drivers and teams that make enormous sums of money to entertain fans like me.
Jan 3, 2013 4:42PM
Jan 3, 2013 5:14PM
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Oh I'm sure there are quite a few hidden goodies packed in there. That's why there is a 40:1 spending to cut ratio...

Politicians cannot cut expenses...it's not in their blood. Remember...all these goodies equate to votes for these elected-elite clowns...and especially Barry, the ring-leader big-eared clown himself!

Jan 3, 2013 4:56PM
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Lobbying at it's finest getting tax breaks for those that don't need it and using the crutch of tax payer aid would be needed otherwise.  Taxes being used to support businesses needs to stop.  If the states are going to pay for half of the stadium they should have a say on the personnel of the team and how profits are spent.
Jan 3, 2013 5:11PM
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who pays the

blue Angels for the prerace shows or the fly overs???   How much do these military sponsored cars cost the taxpayers??    With the poor attendance and lack of sponsers, maybe the government should take over NASCAR!!!  Run like the government, the people cannot afford it.  There are only so many races a year and how can there be more tracks.  NASCAR has outpriced itself to the common people.

Jan 3, 2013 4:48PM
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Gee, be nice if they paid their far share here in Daytona - maybe they need to buy the land the track sits on also - is still owned by the tax payers
Jan 3, 2013 5:11PM
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why should the people subsidize nascar tracks?  If they can not make money raise prices or close!

ali gator     chomp    chomp     chomp

Jan 3, 2013 5:43PM
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Like tax break to Hollywood  and 'algae' there must have been some large campaign contributions here. Like the breaks and 'grants' to green energy  companies were made to 'friends' and campaign contributions.


Jan 3, 2013 8:07PM
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MSN -Why don't you publish the rest of the porkies that are in the FC deal like millions in tax breaks for Hollywood, billions of money given tosuch things as Bank of America and other banks, algae growers, and Puerto Rican rum makers?  While you are at it explain the real truth why Sandy Relief money was not voted on because of additional porkies that total almost $30 million of the $60 million towards Alaska fisheries, tree planting, museum roof repairs, etc. 

 

$16.426 trillion in debt and this is what American poor, middle class, and wealthy tax payers get? 

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Once again a concession to the fat cats at the expense of the American public.  I doubt that many of us except the senators and representatives will be sitting in the newly constructed boxes to watch the races.  But then again we are usually not the ones taking the factfinding missions at taxpayer expense to China, Tahiti or Europe.
Jan 3, 2013 4:47PM
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i use to be a nascar fan but no more. france jr. has ruined this sport. i dont like the diversity...toyota, danica(woman who cant drive) columbian drug lords son montoya, gotta race in cali, and all over the united states and close down all the souther tracks. chevy has a bail out a few years ago but did they cut back on spending to fund the race teams, no they won a championship. did they go on tv the following year bragging about record profits, yes they did. i dont like the armed forces sponsoring teams, the recruiting age is 18 to 23, im sorry peeps but this age group does not watch nascar. i would say the avg. age of a nascar viewer is prolly 30. a little to old to be recruiting. now this, yall can have this sport and run it in the ground. hell just look in the stands nowadays.
Jan 3, 2013 4:38PM
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will that mear my ticket prices will be lower ?   LOL
Jan 3, 2013 6:35PM
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I'm a NASCAR fan but this is exactly why all of our politicians should be fired.  You know somebody got a nice chunk of money or some other benefit from a lobbyist to sneak this in.  It just goes to prove we have a bunch of crooks running our government.  What a shame.
Jan 3, 2013 6:22PM
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This is the sort of stupid fluff reporting the adds no value and is turning the US into an idiocracy.  It is ACCELERATED depreciation.  It reduces tax revenue next year by $70MM but increases tax revenue down the road by...you guessed it $70MM.  Depreciation is an absolute - you can't change the facts of what it cost to build the track - pay me now or pay me later.  BS reporting like this though sure has drawn the iintended responses.  MSN should be ashamed of itself for dumbing down the facts and telling less than half the story just to draw emotional responses.
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