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R&D Tax Credit Debate Nears

One of Congress's annual spring rituals -- debating renewal of the R&D tax credit -- is about to unfold. With the current credit due to lapse June 30, supporters are using the expiration to push for a permanent extension. Such legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) and in the House by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R, Conn.), is pending in the tax-writing committees of each chamber and has bipartisan backing. The best chance for passage, lobbyists say, is for the measure to be attached to a broader tax bill or to some other piece of "must-pass" legislation. But there's also opposition, mainly from conservatives who view the credit as "corporate welfare" and liberals who would rather boost spending on social programs.

To build support for passage, the National Assn. of Manufacturers has released a study showing that the R&D credit accounts for as much as one third of the U.S.'s economic growth and two-thirds of productivity growth.

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