The National Restaurant Association today applauded Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) for her leadership in championing legislation to increase the business meal tax deduction, an important priority for the restaurant industry.

Rep. Berkley is now the lead cosponsor of H.R. 3333, a bill to increase the current 50 percent federal tax deduction for business meals to 80 percent. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Adam Putnam (R-Florida), and Sam Farr (D-California). The measure would restore fairness in the tax code for legitimate business deductions and help local restaurants and small businesses. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) originally introduced the bill in July 2009. After Rep. Abercrombie retired from Congress last month, Rep. Berkley agreed to become the lead cosponsor of the bill.

“Restoring this deduction is important to small and independent businesses as well as the food service, travel, tourism, and entertainment industries,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs for the NRA. “We are grateful for Representative Berkley’s leadership on this issue. This is one of the key issues that our members will be advocating for this week when hundreds of restaurateurs from across the country head to Capitol Hill during our Public Affairs Conference.”

“The business meal deduction is an incentive for businessmen and businesswomen to visit restaurants and eateries throughout the nation,” Rep. Berkley says. “This provision will save jobs and promote economic growth at family-run establishments and businesses of all sizes that are part of America’s restaurant and dining industry.”

Research shows that an increase in the deduction to 80 percent would grow business meal sales by $6 billion nationwide and create an $18 billion increase in the overall economy. The industry currently employs an estimated 13 million people, or 9 percent of the U.S. workforce. It is estimated that for every additional one million dollars in restaurant sales, an additional 34 jobs are generated for the economy.

The National Restaurant Association has long supported fully restoring the federal tax deduction for business meals since it was reduced to 50 percent in 1993. Restaurants, along with small businesses, self-employed individuals, and the travel and tourism industry, are most negatively impacted by the current policy. An increase in the business meal deduction would benefit the restaurant and small business communities.

Restaurants are the number one preference for small business people who conduct meetings outside the office, and two-thirds of people who claim the business meal deduction are small business owners who rely on the deduction to grow their businesses and stay competitive.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Public Affairs Conference will be held April 14-16. For more information, visit the Web site.

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