WASHINGTON – Three senior Senate Democrats have released a proposal to revise the U.S. international tax system that could affect the outcome of the global tax reshuffle the White House is seeking to finance infrastructure spending.
The new draft, published by Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Mark Warner of Virginia, calls for higher levies on offshore profits and higher penalties for companies that move income outside of the country to pay taxes to avoid contacting the IRS. The plan does not provide for specific tariff levels and asks for feedback on the ideas while the legislature works on legislation.
“This system requires significant reforms to ensure that big companies pay their fair share while helping to encourage investment in the US and not overseas,” the breakdown reads.
Wyden said the Democrats are working to win their colleagues over to the proposal and that some specifics – such as the corporate tax rate – are still up for discussion.
“There is a very strong consensus on all of the great principles,” Wyden said in a call to reporters Monday. “We want the jobs here at home and we want the incentives here at home.”
The plan could serve as an alternative or a complement to President Joe Biden’s revision of corporate and international taxes published last week to help fund infrastructure spending of $ 2.25 trillion. In addition to raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, the White House plan also envisages a complete overhaul of the complicated carrot-and-stick incentive matrix introduced in 2018 that governs how U.S. companies pay taxes on foreign profits.
In contrast to the Biden proposal, which largely calls for the repeal of the international tax changes that Republicans implemented in their 2017 tax bill, Senate Democrats are proposing a revision of the current system. Lawmakers said companies should pay more tax on their offshore profits – what’s called a global low intangible tax income (GILTI).
According to current law, the rate is only 10.5% to around 13%, depending on the country. Biden has asked for a minimum tax of 21% on all foreign profits. The Senators did not propose a specific sentence.
Both the proposals of the administration and the senators are only outlines and have yet to be translated into a legal text in which further details are specified.
“A certain consensus is beginning to be formed on the international side,” said Jen Acuna, Principal at KPMG, who was a tax advisor in Congress and who contributed to the development of the international tax system in the 2017 GOP Tax Act. “Directionally, both go the same way.”
Both Biden and the Senators have called for offshore rates to be calculated on a country-by-country basis rather than spread across all jurisdictions, giving companies less leeway to cut their tax burdens. The two plans don’t match the technical details, however – Biden’s plan would require each country to calculate its own tax rate, while the Senate plan would separate high-tax countries from low-tax countries.
The Democratic Senators also called for the end of what they called incentives for the 2017 tax revision for companies to build factories and facilities overseas. You want to create advantages for these investments in the USA. Biden suggested something along these lines.
Trump’s tax law was designed to make it easier for American companies to compete with foreign competitors in countries where taxes were lower and international tax systems more permissive. Democrats said it ultimately did little to stimulate domestic investment or prevent companies from moving income and wealth overseas.
The taxation of US companies abroad is likely to be at the center of the debate over the financing of the infrastructure package in the coming months.
Corporations and corporate groups are already campaigning against the effort, and many Republicans have said they will not vote for a bill that includes corporate tax increases – suggesting that Democrats may need to pass laws by their own narrow majority. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told her caucus last week that she hoped to get the bill passed by July 4th.