Contributing Op-Ed Writer: Paradise Papers Show How Misguided the G.O.P. Is on Taxes (NYT)

Contributing Op-Ed Writer: Paradise Papers Show How Misguided the G.O.P. Is on Taxes

We worry a lot about the cost of social programs in this country, saying we simply can’t afford many things that we know could bring big rewards. But that missing $70 billion from corporate offshore tax avoidance would go a long way. A mere $140 million could replace the lead water pipes poisoning children in Flint, Mich. It would cost just an estimated $22.5 billion to end homelessness by providing all needy families with rental assistance. President Barack Obama asked Congress for $75 billion for his initial universal preschool plan; universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds would cost $98.4 billion over 10 years.

Senator Bernie Sanders’s College for All Act doesn’t even require the federal government to cover the entire $70 billion cost of public college tuition, but it could if this money were available to the government. Divvying up $70 billion a year to each parent in the country would be a huge step toward ending childhood poverty. And the available pot of money, were offshore tax avoidance not an option, would be even larger if rich individuals were taxed at the rates we all face here at home.

Yet even in the face of the Paradise Papers revelations, Republicans want to lower taxes on big corporations and rich individuals even further.

Businesses and the wealthy, the Republicans’ argument goes, will bring their money back to our shores and pay taxes on it if rates are lower. But there are few mechanisms included in their tax package that would actually push either group to do so, rather than keep it abroad and away from taxation.

The House package included a new tax on intellectual property royalties multinational corporations pay to offshore affiliates in an effort, the writers say, to keep them from moving money to tax shelters. But, after an outcry from those multinationals, an amendment was added on Monday that weakens its impact such that it’s worth 95 percent less. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, haven’t included it in their version of the legislation.

The House package also calls for a one-time tax of 7 percent and 14 percent on offshore earnings that have been stockpiled abroad, and an effective 10 percent rate on “high returns” to a parent company headquartered in this country from foreign subsidiaries, both efforts to supposedly keep multinationals from avoiding taxes. The Senate version proposes even lower rates on offshore earnings. Those rates are far lower than the 20 percent rate Republicans want to levy on corporate profits — and a huge drop from the current rate of 35 percent — leaving an incentive to keep money elsewhere.

The House plan shifts the country to a territorial tax system, in which companies would owe taxes only on money they make here. Money generated abroad in foreign subsidiaries would be subject to the taxes of that country, so they’d have even more incentive to keep it in the low-tax places the Paradise Papers show they’ve already been using.

None of these provisions go after wealthy individuals who keep their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. Instead, the House package hands these same people a variety of giveaways: an enormous loophole via a lower tax rate on pass-through businesses; the elimination of the alternative minimum tax that ensures they have to pay at least something; and the eradication of the tax on the wealthiest estates.

The groups that are already dodging taxes through offshore accounting are the ones that make out with the biggest benefits. According to an analysis by the conservative Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, $1 trillion of the overall $1.5 trillion cost is from cuts for businesses. According to the Tax Policy Center, the highest-income families can expect the biggest reward. The richest 0.1 percent of Americans will get an average $278,370 reduction in their tax bill by 2027, while the poorest two-fifths of the country get around $25.

The Republican tax plan would shift more of the tax burden onto those who can least afford to shoulder it and relieve those who are already starving the government of tax revenue. The Paradise Papers shine yet another spotlight on how the rich and powerful game the system to avoid paying what they would otherwise owe. The rest of us suffer for it. Why hand them even more favors?

Continue reading the main story


via NYT

November 12, 2017 at 05:33PM