TAX FIGHT NOT YET WON

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The balanced budget debate ignited by Senate and House Republicans this month has plenty of twists and turns ahead, but pinning tax penalties on advertising is not part of the GOP's opening gambit.

Absent are proposals that would force advertisers to amortize over a period of years 10% or 20% of their annual ad expenditures-a step that would cost billions in new taxes before amortization schedules kicked in. Also missing are proposals that would raise billions more by allowing businesses to deduct only 80% to 90% of ad costs rather than the current 100%.

This "victory," while by no means final, is important for every business, big or small, that relies on advertising to generate crucial sales dollars, sales dollars that keep the American economy moving.

Members of Congress need only look around to see that business considers advertising essential. With profits to reinvest, seasoned business managers are putting dollars earned from the current strong economy back into more and more advertising to keep up sales momentum. Most newspapers and magazines are posting ad volume gains this year, radio ad sales are strong and this spring's TV "upfront" market, where commercial time is bought for the 1995-96 TV season, is awash in record amounts of ad dollars.

Yet some will still argue advertising is not a "legitimate business expense" worthy of full tax deductibility; that deductibility for ad costs is "corporate welfare." Those labels will have impact on members of Congress as they come face to face with cutting government programs popular with lots of voters back home.

Advertising has defenders, of course-from Fortune 500 companies to small business; giant media companies to local newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. In the weeks ahead, all must actively contact their representatives. Anything can still happen. The hard votes on taxes and tax cuts, and on advertising's tax status, are yet to come.

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