No. I am not thinking about ice cream. Well, maybe I am. But with all this talk about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, one wonders…. “Has the life of this program always been so volatile?”
“Why, yes,” you say, ”it has.”
WOTC is currently slated to expire on December 31, 2011. A quick review of WOTC’s legislative history, however, demonstrates that it has already expired and been renewed 8 times since it’s creation in 1996. The New Hampshire Employment Security Department has published a convenient history of the program’s history. I summarize the following from their document.
* Created by the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, which authorized WOTC for a 12 month period
* Extended for 9 months by The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
* Reauthorized and extended for another 12 months by The Tax and Trade Relief Extension Act of 1998
* Extended for an additional 30 months (through December 21, 2001) by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999
* Extended for 24 months by The Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 (note this was not passed until March 2002, meaning the reauthorization was retroactive after the program expired on December 31, 2001)
* Retroactively reauthorized and extended for 24 months by The Working Families Relief Act of 2004. This act was passed in October 2004, when WOTC had already expired on December 31, 2003
* Retroactive reauthorized and extended for 24 months by The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. This act was not passed until December 2006 — almost 12 months after the program had expired on December 31, 2005.
* Further extended for another 44 months (through August 31, 2011), just 7 months later, by The Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act of 2007
* Extended 4 months, through December 31, 2011 by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010
One might also wonder, what happened to the participating employers, benefiting workers, and the marvelous WOTC government bureaucracy during these periods between expiration and reauthorization? Did they go away for a while, take a vacation, a long nap?
I lived through a number of these periods. We continued business as usual for the most part . . . but with a finger continually crossed while the lobbyists and congress people everywhere worked to achieve an extension.
Employers continued hiring new workers and submitting WOTC employee applications to their state WOTC centers. The WOTC government bureaucracies continued to function, accumulating massive backlogs of pending certifications, since they were not authorized to evaluate and issue certifications under a non-existing program. When the next round of legislation was finally passed, the paperwork began to flow and eventually everyone caught up.
WOTC has been a well-loved success from many perspectives for the past 15 years. If legislation providing a program extension can not be achieved within the context of the very heated political discussion now taking place in Washington DC, then it is likely to be achieved in the following months of 2012. My personal bet, however, is that an extension will be forthcoming soon.