Capital Roundup

Stock Option Bills<@VM>Software Tax Break Unveiled<@VM>House Gives Nod To Funding Bill

By Anne Gallagher

Two new bills have surfaced in Congress that preserve the rights of information technology companies to issue incentives, such as stock option grants, to hourly employees.

Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., introduced H.R. 4109, and Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., offered a companion bill in the Senate.

"The information industry's most valuable capital, and the key ingredient for its remarkable success, is the knowledge and skill base of its employees," Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America of Arlington, Va., said in a statement.

"The ability for a high-tech company to attract and maintain its work force is one of the most important issues facing our industry," he said. "This legislation will give companies the ability to [provide incentives to] all members of their work force through the opportunity to share in future success ? the essence of stock option plans."House Policy Committee Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif., has introduced the Amortization of Software Tax Act, which permits small-business people to deduct fully the cost of software used in their businesses.

The goal of the bill is to help small businesses stay competitive by removing the government penalty for putting their businesses online or properly maintaining their technology.

The bill also would help these businesses get up and running on the Internet to take advantage of the burgeoning electronic marketplace.

Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code would permit small businesses to immediately write off the cost of computer hardware and other office equipment up to $20,000 in 2000, $24,000 in 2001 and $25,000 in 2002.

The new bill adds noncustomized computer software to the list of property that can be written off.

"The 21st century reality is that software needs regular upgrading. It's not like a building or even a wrench that lasts a long time," Cox said in a statement. "The tax code already recognizes this for computers ? which a small business can immediately deduct when purchased ? but software is inexplicably treated differently. This bill will fix that."The House has passed and sent to the Senate for consideration a bill that would boost funding throughout the federal government for long-term basic research on networking and information technology by several agencies.

The Networking and Information Development Act, H.R. 2086, authorizes $5.6 billion in funds for fiscal years 2000-2004 in agencies and organizations that include the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA and the Energy Department. The bill would boost funding for IT research and development about $1 billion over the Clinton administration's request.

"This bill will be a boon to the people of Silicon Valley and the companies and trade associations that have been at the forefront of the development of the newest generation information technology," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a supporter of the bill. "This bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars of extremely well-spent investment into further basic research to continue advances in IT."

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