CERTS Tax Relief Bill is reintroduced in Congress

The United Motorcoach Association is praising the reintroduction of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Tax Exemption Act.

Jimmy Panetta

The bill was reintroduced by Reps. Darin LaHood, R-Illinois, and Jimmy Panetta, D-California. The two House Representatives championed the first version of the bill which garnered significant support with 88 cosponsors; unfortunately, the 118th Congress did not move any tax-related bills and the bill expired without ever having a vote. 

“The bipartisan CERTS Tax Exemption Act would ensure that COVID assistance for these businesses is tax-exempt in order to help this industry fully recover and continue serving customers,” Panetta said. “As we get past the pandemic, we can’t leave behind critical sectors of our tourism and hospitality industry, especially the small businesses that provide passenger vehicles.”

In addition to LaHood and Panetta, the bill’s sponsors are Reps. John Rose, R-Tennessee; Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania; Jared Golden, D-Maine; and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon.

Vital help for an essential industry

This legislation addresses a key inequity between CERTS grants and other COVID-19 relief programs and will help the motorcoach industry continue its recovery. 

This legislation had strong House support in the last Congress from members who understand the important role this industry brings to their communities. UMA and affiliated state and local bus and motorcoach associations raised this issue with over 120 members of Congress during its annual Fly-In in April, and its members look forward to helping secure strong support for the bill again.

The motorcoach industry was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparing 2019 to today, nearly half of the industry is no longer in business, according to U.S. Department of Transportation licensing data. Congress created the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) program in December of 2020, providing $2 billion of invaluable support to these struggling industries and their employees. 

However, the relief was not distributed until August 2021, when many motorcoach companies had already faltered.

Retroactive tax relief

“Unfortunately, the CERTS legislation omitted a provision giving CERTS relief the same tax treatment as other pandemic business assistance programs,” said UMA President and CEO Scott Michael. “This bill would correct the inequity by making CERTS awards tax-exempt.”

The motorcoach industry provides essential transportation services to the public, and it is in the nation’s interest for the industry to be strong and thriving. Employing thousands, motorcoaches move military troops, evacuate people out of harm’s way during natural disasters, provide commuter service, transport youngsters to field trips and sporting activities, and support travel and tourism. These businesses were some of the first to shut down in 2020 and were among the last to begin recovery.

The new bill, H.R. 3510, would make the CERTS grants non-taxable, retroactively. If the bill passes, previously filed 2021 taxes would be able to amend their return.

H.R. 3510 was introduced on May 18, with a strong show of bipartisan support. But more co-sponsors are needed to demonstrate this issue still matters and to capture the attention of Congressional leaders.

Last year’s version of the bill had 88 co-sponsors. UMA is asking Members to move quickly to exceed this number with the current bill by sending their representative a message on how important it is for them to co-sponsor H.R. 3510 and giving them the contact information to add their name to the bill.

‘We need more’

“Nearly six months went by before the CERTS Act was passed, and it took the effort of hundreds of operators to garner the support and co-sponsorships for the bill,” said Ken Presley, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO. “That effort yielded 271 cosponsors, sufficient to get the bill over the goal line.”     

He noted that since most grants are considered reportable income subject to taxes, CERTS was not exempt. The six original sponsors of H.R. 3510 are affording the industry an opportunity, and a rare second chance, to garner support for exempting the CERTS funds.

During the UMA Town Hall on May 25, participants heard that since last week 174 individual operators have written to their House Representatives. 

“A good start and thank you to those that have already written,” said Presley. “We need more.”

To contact your representative and send a direct request seeking their support, click here.

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