A Senate Democratic plan offers the clearest picture yet of the penalties American companies could pay for moving profits overseas. In a bill released on Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden outlined his vision for reforming the global tax system for multinational corporations. Democrats say these companies are subject to lax rules that have allowed them for decades to relocate profits and jobs outside of the United States.
“The revision of the international tax code is central to our efforts to restore fairness,” said Wyden in a statement on the legislation co-authored by fellow members of the finance committee, Sherrod Brown and Mark Warner. Wyden added that increased corporate tax levies will fund “critical investments like paid vacation and the expanded child tax credit – social security for our children” that the Democrats are planning.
The proposal is a legislative part of a $ 3.5 trillion tax and spending package that Democrats are now putting together to implement most of President Joe Biden’s longer-term economic plans. This process, known as reconciliation, was given the green light for action by the House of Representatives on Tuesday and is expected to take weeks or months to complete.
The Senate Democrats’ international corporate tax proposals do not yet mandate specific tax rates, so lawmakers will have to fill them in when considering the broader bill. Instead, the newly released plan works within existing corporate tax policies and regulations – a move that could streamline its implementation. The rules would increase penalties for companies that move money and assets overseas to avoid Internal Revenue Service (IRS) levies, while increasing tax breaks for those doing research and development (R&D) domestically.
The Biden government demanded a domestic corporate tax rate of 28 percent and a minimum tax of 21 percent on offshore profits. However, these numbers have been the subject of some discussion. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he didn’t want a corporate tax rate of more than 25 percent. In the meantime, the U.S. is urging other countries to introduce a global minimum of 15 percent – less than the 21 percent Biden has suggested for U.S. companies operating overseas.
The bill, which asks for public feedback by September 3, is the most public part of the Democrats’ efforts to overhaul the tax system, which so far have largely been carried out behind closed doors. Along with the corporate tax hikes, the Democrats want to raise taxes on wealthy people.
The international tax proposals are considered to be one of the most technically demanding aspects of legislation. They’re trying to revise many of the changes Republicans made to tax law in 2017.
The Wyden-Brown-Warner Plan significantly changes the current international tax system, but requires a less extensive overhaul than the Biden administration’s proposals. For example, the Foreign Intangible Income Tax Withholding, or FDII (which will be changed to “Foreign Innovation Income” in the proposal) would require companies to invest more in research and development and domestic jobs in the US to get the tax breaks.
Wyden also says companies should pay more tax on their offshore profits – what is currently known as Global Intangible Low Taxed Income, or GILTI.
Both Biden and Wyden have urged companies to calculate their taxes abroad on a country-by-country basis, a move that leaves companies less leeway to cut their bills. However, the Senate plan takes a simpler approach – including all high-tax countries in a separate group, avoiding a breakdown by location. Income earned in locations with low tax rates can be aggregated, with the American company making a payment to the IRS based on this pool.
Developing comprehensive tax rules to encourage large US corporations to pay more domestic taxes has been a mystery to policymakers for decades as creative tax attorneys in other countries, including Bermuda and Ireland, took advantage of lower tax rates. More than 130 countries signed an agreement earlier this year that aims to reverse this trend by introducing a minimum tax rate of 15 percent worldwide. The deal is slated to close at the Group of 20 meeting this October, but it could take years to complete.
There is a compressed schedule for completing the writing in Congress. The budget resolution, driven by the Senate and House of Representatives to establish the reconciliation process, set a deadline of September 15 for the committees to complete their work.
Wyden’s counterpart, House Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal, said he plans to begin reviewing his version of the tax law as early as September 9. The constitution requires tax legislation to begin in-house.