Stimulus package extends bonus depreciation rules

 - February 27, 2009, 9:59 AM

For business aviation, the latest $787 billion economic stimulus bill–H.R.1, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”–giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

The legislation passed last month extends the accelerated depreciation rules enacted in last year’s stimulus bill to apply accelerated depreciation to eligible property purchased this year and placed in service by the end of 2010. But the bill also requires any recipient of Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds to have a board of directors-approved policy regarding certain expenditures, which could include the use of business aircraft.

According to Business Week magazine, the new bailout rules don’t prohibit jet ownership, but they do require companies that accept federal money to put in place a policy for big-ticket items such as business jets and fancy company outings and trips. The policy is supposed to be on the agenda for the next company board meeting and placed on the company’s Web site.

NBAA said it has long promoted transparency in business aviation operations because it helps demonstrate that a company’s airplane is an essential strategic asset for optimizing productivity, flexibility and efficiency.

Companies in the travel and hospitality industries are bracing for more cutbacks. “Most of us in the industry feel like we’re victims of a drive-by shooting,” National Air Transportation Association president James Coyne told The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done anything wrong.”

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) told the newspaper he spent a week trying to galvanize his state’s congressional delegation and machinist union leaders to defeat legislation that would have forced companies receiving bailout funds to sell off aircraft.

“We’re already seeing some reduction in demand because of the economy,” he said. “To compound it by having the government try to force the industry downward has not been helpful.”

On a brighter note, the bill contains $1.3 billion for aviation, including $1.1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and $200 million for the FAA’s facilities and equipment account (for ATC modernization and NextGen).