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NRF asks Senate for 'carry back'
Oct '09
The National Retail Federation asked the Senate to approve an amendment that would bring recession-plagued retailers and other businesses billions of dollars in badly needed cash by lengthening the period during which they can “carry back” current losses to claim a tax refund from previous years when they made a profit.

“For retailers struggling in the current recession, NOL carryback provides an important source of capital to finance ongoing operations and retain employees,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. “Because retail sales have fallen so dramatically over the past year and access to capital has been so limited, retailers are experiencing severe challenges in finding the cash they need to operate their businesses as the economy moves toward recovery.”

“For most retailers, 25 to 50 percent of their annual sales occur during the last quarter of the year, the holiday season,” Pfister said. “If retailers cannot finance inventories for the 2009 holiday season – their greatest opportunity for revenue for the year – they could go out of business, causing the loss of tens of thousands of additional retail jobs.”

Pfister's comments came in a letter to leadership and members of the Senate, which is expected to consider legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits this week.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., plan to offer an amendment to the unemployment bill that would give both large and small businesses the ability to “carry back” net operating losses suffered during the current recession in order to claim a refund from taxes paid in previous years when they made a profit.

Carryback is normally limited to two years, but economic stimulus legislation signed into law in February expanded the period to five years for companies with up to $15 billion in annual gross receipts. Larger businesses are still restricted to two years.
Details are still being worked out, but the Reid/Baucus amendment is expected to expand the five-year period to include all businesses that suffer a loss regardless of size, and to give companies the choice of using the carryback for losses from either 2008 or 2009 rather than just 2008 as provided in the stimulus bill. In the fifth year, the carryback would be limited to 50 percent of a company's taxable income for that year, but any loss not utilized could be “carried forward.” Small companies that took a five-year carryback under the stimulus bill could carry back 2009 losses as well.

The Joint Committee on Taxation has previously estimated that an unrestricted five-year carryback for both 2008 and 2009 would provide $16.3 billion in tax relief over 10 years. JCT has not released an estimate of the revenue loss under the conditions set in the Reid/Baucus amendment.

NRF has led the retail industry's efforts for five-year carryback, explaining to Congress that many retailers hadn't seen sufficient profits before the current recession for a two-year carryback to be adequate. NRF testified on the issue before the House Small Business committee last month.

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