The New York Times’ latest “Room for Debate” feature asks how the United States can stop corporations from moving their headquarters overseas — known as corporate “inversions” — to avoid taxes. In my contribution, I explain that inversions are a high-profile part of the problem that multinationals’ profits aren’t taxed anywhere, because tax rules let companies claim they earned the profits in in zero- or low-tax havens.
I point out that Pfizer — whose inversion plans made recent headlines — could keep billions in profits permanently untaxed by inverting. Ed Kleinbard, USC law professor and former staff director for Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, explains in detail in a new Wall Street Journal piece how companies can lower their tax bills through an inversion.
Slashing U.S. corporate taxes won’t solve an inversions problem created by profits that already aren’t taxed. Instead, U.S. policymakers should first swiftly enact targeted anti-inversion legislation to protect the U.S. tax base.
That’s why Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden should be applauded for his pledge today (during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on inversions and international tax reform) to immediately try to stop U.S. firms from incorporating overseas for tax purposes. “Let’s work together to immediately cool down the inversion fever ... The inversion loophole needs to be plugged now,” Wyden said.
Then, any eventual corporate tax reform could raise revenue by eliminating inefficient business tax breaks for both domestic and foreign profits and reducing opportunities and incentives for corporations to engage in international tax avoidance, and level the playing field between domestic and multinational companies, as we’ve previously explained.
Click here to read the full “Room for Debate” piece.