This important provision allows companies of all sizes to “carry back” losses in 2008 and 2009 to offset taxes paid in profitable years for a period of five years.

The measure provides hard-hit businesses with much needed cash to finance ongoing operations, retain jobs and, in some cases, stay in business.

The 14000-member National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which led the campaign for the measure, said that around 20 per cent of its small and medium-sized members had reported net operating losses in 2008. It expected that number to double for 2009.