...Tax Breaks Vital To Recovery...

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The perspective granted by recent history may offer a glimpse at just how "recovery" is relative. Compare Friday's figures with those of the first quarter of 2001 and you might want to put away the champagne in favor of a shot of scotch. The recent improvement compares with overall sales from the early 2001 boom by reaching a point that's 15.8 percent lower. There were 642 sales in the first quarter of 2001 compared to 541 in the same period in 2004, and billings are off by 35 percent (currently $2.38 billion vs. $3.64 billion in 2001). As tenuous as the good news is, GAMA President Ed Bolen said he hopes Congress will play a big role in maintaining the current momentum by renewing a key tax incentive. Bonus depreciation, in which buyers of big-ticket items (like airplanes) for business are allowed to more quickly depreciate the purchase and claim a big first-year tax break, has acted like a government-sponsored discount program for the industry -- but it only applies to goods put in service before Jan. 1, 2005. GAMA wants the government to extend the placed-in-service deadline for aircraft because they take so much longer to build than many other items. "We need Congress to quickly extend bonus depreciation to ensure we keep this momentum going through the end of the year and into 2005," Bolen said.