Feds urge action on overseas tax dodge

WASHINGTON — Calling for “a new sense of economic patriotism,” a top Obama administration official urged Congress to take immediate action to stop U.S. companies from reorganizing as foreign firms to avoid paying taxes.

The maneuver, known as tax inversion, serves “to hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew wrote in a letter to congressional leaders that was obtained by the Times.

“What we need as a nation is a new sense of economic patriotism, where we all rise or fall together,” Lew wrote to the top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional tax-writing committees.

“We should not be providing support for corporations that seek to shift their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” he said.

Some lawmakers have pushed to restrict the practice, in which a U.S.-based multinational company restructures so the parent company becomes a foreign corporation.

The maneuver allows firms to avoid paying corporate taxes in the U.S., which has the highest rate among major developed nations.

This week, Pennsylvania-based Mylan agreed to buy Abbott Laboratories’ generic drug business in developed countries and create a new company that will be incorporated in the Netherlands.

The new firm will pay lower taxes, although Mylan plans to keep its headquarters just outside Pittsburgh.

Lew said such moves were unfair to U.S. taxpayers.

“The firms involved in these transactions still expect to benefit from their business location in the United States, with our protection of intellectual property rights, our support for research and development, our investment climate and our infrastructure, all funded by various levels of government,” he wrote.

Walgreen Co. reportedly is considering a similar offshore tax shift and there have been 47 inversions by U.S. corporations since 1984, according to Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. He has introduced legislation to make the maneuver more difficult. The legislation is similar to a proposal in Obama’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget that would generate about $17 billion in additional tax revenue over 10 years, Levin said.

Lew said the best way to deal with the problem was as part of a broad overhaul of the business tax system that also would include lowering the nation’s 35 percent corporate rate.

But a bipartisan push for major tax legislation has stalled in Congress.

Given the difficulties with a broad overhaul, Lew said lawmakers should move quickly now to restrict tax inversions.

“Congress should enact legislation immediately — and make it retroactive to May 2014 — to shut down this abuse of our tax system,” Lew wrote.

More in Herald Business Journal

Amazon leases a southwest Everett warehouse for deliveries

The Seaway Center building is not as big as one of the company’s more typical fulfillment centers.

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

JCPenney partners with EvCC, WSU to assist students

Earlier this month, JCPenney partnered with the Career Service Centers at Everett… Continue reading

Re/Max Elite adds two agents in Lynnwood

Jenelle Dent and Lori DaSilva have joined Re/Max Elite as agents at… Continue reading

Register for Marysville Tulalip Business Before Hours event

The Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce holds its next Business Before… Continue reading

Wells Fargo donates $2,500 to Edmonds Center for the Arts

Edmonds Center for the Arts has received a grant of $2,500 from… Continue reading

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Most Read