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Romney: I Have Friends Who Own NASCAR Teams

The 2012 NASCAR season kicked off Monday with the Daytona 500. The much-celebrated start to the racing season is a chance to remind Congress and the administration that it’s time to end track owners’ special tax break.

In 2004, President Bush signed a tax bill chock-full of special interest tax breaks, including one for his NASCAR friends. The legislation allowed track owners to write off the cost of motorsports facilities (track, grandstand, etc.) over seven years for tax purposes. For accounting purposes, these assets are written off over their useful lives, ranging from ten to thirty years. The accelerated write-off allowed by the tax break costs the U.S. Treasury an estimated $40 million per year.

This particular tax break, along with many others known as “the extenders,” expired on December 31 of 2011. With the projected deficits and the clamor for base-broadening corporate tax reform, you’d think this special-interest loophole would be an easy one to keep off the books. Even Oklahoma Republican Senator Coburn has called for its elimination. But Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan is pushing for bringing back the NASCAR tax break, while he’s busy collecting campaign contributions from the industry. And President Obama’s budget proposal also calls for extending it.

An interesting question is whether GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is a supporter of this tax break, too. As he said in an interview Sunday, “I have friends who own NASCAR teams,” and it turns out some of those friends are also campaign donors.

As governor in Massachusetts, Romney made the decision to close a slew of corporate loopholes that brought in some $370 million to his state’s treasury. Presidential candidate, Romney, however, doesn’t like to talk about that.

So we will see: will we have a presidential race featuring two candidates who try to bolster their blue collar bona fides by supporting the NASCAR track owners’ loophole, or two candidates who mean it when they say they want to simplify the tax code?

Photos of Nascar related materials via Side Hike  and Brian C Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0