A provision restoring the tax deductibility of travel expenses of spouses who accompany partners on business trips is part of the inheritance tax/minimum wage bill passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The bill is now before the Senate, where action is expected before the summer recess.

H.R. 5970 makes the first $5 million of an estate’s value exempt from taxation and raises the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. Among the many tax-related provisions attached to the bill is one that restores the spousal travel deduction. Reinstating the deduction has been a goal of business travel and meetings industry groups since it was eliminated in 1993.

The inclusion of the spousal travel deduction in H.R. 5970 followed negotiations between Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii. The provision restoring the deduction expires on January 1, 2008, but in a statement released by his office Abercrombie says he’ll fight to extend it.

“I’ve been trying to get the deduction passed for more than 10 years,” said Abercrombie. “Getting it approved by the House is a milestone achievement, and if we can keep it in the bill, I’m optimistic we can extend it.

“This deduction is a terrific incentive for convention goers and other business travelers to bring their spouses,” said Abercrombie “It will increase hotel occupancy, generate more business for restaurants, tour companies, and create a ripple effect on every business that depends on visitors. As a marketing tool, it can make a huge impact on the number of business and professional conventions we host.”