The New Millennium Classrooms Act

As PCs become more of a commodity, disposing of last-generation products becomes more of an issue. One bill before Congress would encourage one outlet: donating equipment to schools, now back in session across most of the nation.

As PCs become more of a commodity, disposing of last-generation products becomes more of an issue. One bill before Congress would encourage one outlet: donating equipment to schools, now back in session across most of the nation.

The New Millennium Classrooms Act (S. 542) would expand on an existing tax credit for computers donated to K-12 classrooms. The bill offers a 30 percent tax credit based on the fair market value of the donated equipment, whether new or used. PCs, peripherals, software and fiber-optic cabling are among the covered items. The tax break jumps to 50 percent if the equipment is donated to schools in economically distressed areas.

In addition, the bill would increase the age limit on items eligible for the tax credit from two years to three years. Importantly, the bill would also extend the tax credit to equipment a company reacquires from its customers; currently the credit applies only to products donated by the original user. The re acquired equipment provision could prove a boon for resellers dealing with products coming off lease.

The fate of the bill is uncertain. The proposal had been included as an amendment to the Senate version of the $792 billion tax- cut bill (SR, Sept. 6, p. 50, www.zdnet.com/sr/issues/index.html). But the computer-donation amendment was dropped from the final version of the bill sent to President Clinton. The bill's chief champions, Sens. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), are seeking a new legislative vehicle for the bill. It remains among the top five items on the Senate Republicans' high-tech agenda.

Industry backers in favor of the computer donation bill include the Information Technology Industry Council (www.itic.org) and the Technology Training Tax Credit Coalition (www.techcoalition.org).

Interested in donating computer equipment? The Detwiler Foundation (www.detwiler.org) operates the Computers for Schools Program, which acts as a clearinghouse for processing and distributing donated computers. Integrators are among the foundation's key donors.

Why bother? Sen. Abraham, speaking on the Senate floor, said schools are important Internet-access points for kids who lack PCs and online resources at home—most notably those who reside in homes whose annual income is less than $35,000. He cited Commerce Department statistics that indicate that households at the $75,000 annual income level are 20 times more likely to have home Internet access than households at the lower income levels.

In short, the New Millennium Classrooms Act covers a lot of ground. It's a bill that could improve your asset management—while helping schools develop theirs.

john_p._moore@zd.com

Coming Next Week: Look for Mark Mehler's "Mind Your Business" column to appear here on a rotating basis. He'll split time with channel editor John Moore's "Government Witness."

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