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From start to finish, through a long State of the Union address by President Clinton last week, two words were not uttered: ad tax.

That's welcome relief for jittery ad business groups, whose Ad Tax Coalition mobilized industry execs before the president's speech for an eleventh-hour blitz in opposition to tax policy changes. Current law lets advertisers deduct 100% of advertising expenses in the year they were made. Proposals that keep circulating in Washington, citing advertising's carryover benefits, would permit only 80% deductibility in the first year with the remaining 20% to be amortized over five years.

We have no problem with the Ad Tax Coalition calling out its troops to fight rumors. We do object when some ad people defend full tax deductibility by denying advertising has any carryover effect at all. Reality, of course, is that advertising does have considerable residual value from one year to another; it's one of its strengths. But so do many other legitimate and fully deductible business expenses, such as sales calls and attendance at meetings and seminars.

To say this is not to support advertising tax policy changes that are contorted, arbitrary and artificial. There is still no logical justification for taking a step that the Ad Tax Coalition rightly observes will harm the economy, raise business costs and deprive consumers of valuable information.

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