Friday, July 2, 1999

Abercrombie asks
for help boosting
business bills

He says the proposals
would foster tourism

By Russ Lynch


Hawaii hotel, tourism and restaurant executives are being asked to support several bills in Congress that would increase tax deductions for business meals, spouses traveling on business trips and other entertainment expenses.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie told representatives of a cross-section of tourist-related businesses and associations yesterday that the three measures he introduced would help Hawaii because they would increase travel to the islands and result in more hotel and restaurant jobs.

Abercrombie spoke from the House of Representatives in Washington in a two-way television link with an office in the federal building on Punchbowl Street.

The Hawaii Democrat said he believes the bills can pass because they will be attached to a bill to raise the minimum wage. That legislation is expected to pass, Abercrombie said.

Rick Webster, director of government relations for the national Travel Industry Association, joined Abercrombie to say the bills are "very narrow and very targeted" and therefore have a better chance than a broader measure to bring back the full deduction for business lunches.

"The dollar hit is really insignificant," having only a small impact on the national treasury because they are restricted to specific circumstances and largely to small businesses, he said.

But the congressman said that the bills need support locally.

He asked the executives to get the message to their national organizations so that offices across the country can lobby for the bills. He also said the bills are also pro-labor because they will creat jobs.

One measure introduced by Abercrombie and six other representatives would gradually restore the tax deduction for business meals to 80 percent of the expense, provided the meals are for legitimate business entertainment and the expense is incurred by a small business.

Business and travel meals 10 years ago were 100 percent deductible but Congress cut it to 80 percent in 1987 and to 50 percent in 1994, Abercrombie said.

A bill Abercrombie introduced by himself would restore the deduction for the expenses of a spouse accompanying a taxpayer on a business trip. Another bill he introduced would restore a tax deduction for tickets purchased as business entertainment for entry to performing arts events. The bill would allow the deduction of 80 percent of the first $60 of such a purchase and 50 percent of the rest.

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