Personal Finance: Temporary tax breaks becoming more permanent

photo Chris Hopkins

Responding to voter outrage, Congress ended the practice of earmarking in 2010. In its place, members have expanded their use of a more problematic approach: temporary tax breaks.

Called "tax extenders," these special-interest credits are included in appropriations bills with specific expiration dates, after which the perk theoretically disappears. However, it is becoming increasingly common for Congress to incorporate blanket continuances into its 11th-hour scramble to fund the government. Within the panoply of budget gimmicks, this one is a beaut, since the "temporary" nature of tax extenders precludes the Congressional Budget Office from including them in its long-term deficit projections.

Dozens of temporary giveaways are scheduled to expire at year-end unless renewed by Congress. Most of these provisions have expired at least once, but were retroactively restored during previous budget showdowns.