The case for reform of tax code

The following editorial ran in the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday:

Tuesday’s congressional grilling of Apple CEO Tim Cook offers irrefutable proof that the U.S. tax code is, as stated so eloquently by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, “a mess.”

For starters, let’s admit that U.S. corporations don’t pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world. They dodge the highest corporate tax rate in the world, largely by stashing profits offshore.

And the iPhone and iPad maker is the leader of the pack in terms of both profits and offshore maneuvering. All told, Apple had piled up more than $102 billion in overseas cash as of the end of March.

It’s a system that both discourages companies from reinvesting profits in the United States and shortchanges federal tax coffers. The upshot is that, while firms such as Apple hire herds of lawyers to find ways to stash their cash, individual taxpayers assume a greater portion of the tax burden.

A fair and equitable overhaul of the entire tax system is needed. We wish that were imminent, but lawmakers can’t even agree on whether revisions should be revenue neutral or should bring in additional dollars to reduce the deficit.

Policymakers who designed the tax code never dreamed so many firms would be conducting so much of their business in the global marketplace. The code was written for another time.

A proposed one-time repatriation “tax holiday” didn’t work particularly well in 2004. Congress allowed corporations to bring back an estimated $300 billion from offshore stashes with a one-time 5.25 percent corporate tax rate instead of the standard 35 percent. U.S. firms, including Silicon Valley’s, promised to use the cash to reinvest in their companies and create jobs. Instead, about 90 percent went to shareholders and executive bonuses.

Cook suggests a top corporate tax rate in the “mid-20s” and a repatriation rate in the “single digits.” That has great appeal to Silicon Valley firms, but it’s a nonstarter in Congress unless it’s accompanied by elimination of some loopholes and tax breaks. President Barack Obama is moving in that direction, offering up a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 28 percent and closing dozens of loopholes.

The opposing views expressed by members of Congress at Tuesday’s hearing make it clear that a grand bargain on tax reform is unlikely. Unless Cook’s Cupertino wizards can concoct an app for that, the president’s proposal may be the best incremental step in the offing.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Sept. 23

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Why Snohomish County should shoot for Amazon’s HQ2

Editorial: Not that we have a real shot at it, but because of what else we might attract here.

Schwab: Gift of a Shaolin priest provides lesson in humility

A post-surgery gift from a kung fu master at first seemed like an extravagance of little use.

Commentary: There’s room for a diplomatic North Korea solution

President Trump has the opportunity to use diplomacy to keep North Korea in check. Tweets won’t work.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Sept. 22

A sketchy look at the day’s political stories.… Continue reading

Ignatius: Only creative thinking, not taunts, will deter Kim

The U.S. needs options and a coldblooded rationality, the opposite of Trump’s schoolboy taunts.

Harrop: Why Trump will likley stick with Paris climate deal

Among the reasons: The public’s support for action on climate change and Trump’s poll numbers.

Dionne: Trump’s tough talk at U.N. only leaves us weaker

In talking up “sovereignty,” Trump provides cover to the likes of North Korea and Venezuela.

States’ report puts voter fraud claims in proper perspective

Editorial: A review by the state shows questionable ballots by only 74 of 3.36 million votes cast.

Most Read