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Tax breaks for beer, unborn children and lawmakers are among goodies in Republican bill

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As the House and Senate begin to reconcile their different tax bills, they will have to sort through many little-known provisions that appear designed more to achieve policy goals or reward key lawmakers than deliver tax savings.

Here's a look at some of the standouts, and their prospects for being including in the final legislation:

Religion and politics

The House bill essentially does away with decades-old tax code restrictions preventing churches and other nonprofit groups from engaging in political activities.

Opponents of the restrictions say the groups should have free expression but others worry it will interject politics into philanthropy and open the door to more "dark money" campaigns.

Thousands of churches and charitable organizations oppose the House approach, preferring to keep the restriction, first introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954.

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The provision was not considered in the Senate bill and is unlikely to survive.

"Charities and nonprofits don't want this," said Emily Peterson-Cassin, a project coordinator at the watchdog group Public Citizen. "They believe it's going to be super divisive and open them up to partisan manipulation."

Unborn children

The House bill would expand 529 college savings accounts to unborn children, specifically recognizing a fetus as a beneficiary in the tax code, a goal of conservative antiabortion advocates.

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