President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department on Thursday took the first step toward eliminating remaining regulations designed to prevent corporations from avoiding U.S. taxes by storing profits overseas, a move critics decried as yet another harmful giveaway to big business.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said in a statement that the 2017 GOP tax law—which disproportionately benefited the rich—rendered Obama-era rules against offshore tax avoidance “obsolete” by significantly reducing the corporate tax rate.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, disagreed with Mnuchin’s assessment, warning in a statement that the Treasury Department’s plan “only provides an opening for corporations to again dodge their taxes.”
“The corporations that got a massive taxpayer handout are getting another gift from Donald Trump,” said Wyden. “The Obama administration had essentially shut down inversion—transactions whose only purpose is to help big multinational corporations move overseas to avoid paying taxes.”
According to Bloomberg, the Treasury Department’s proposal, detailed in a policy guidance (pdf) released Thursday, “could make it easier for firms to use accounting tactics to minimize their U.S. earnings and inflate their foreign profits, which are frequently taxed at rates lower than the current 21 percent domestic corporate levy.”
“The existing regulations were aimed at stopping American companies from moving their headquarters to a lower-tax country, a process known as a corporate inversion,” noted Bloomberg.
Contrary to Mnuchin’s claim that the GOP’s 2017 tax law eliminated incentives for corporations to shift profits overseas, advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have argued the law made it easier for businesses to avoid U.S. taxes.
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) will allow companies to avoid taxes on $235 billion in profits each year going forward,” a coalition of more than 50 progressive organizations led by Americans for Tax Fairness wrote in a letter (pdf) to Congress last May.
“Moreover, the law created new incentives for multinational corporations to move their real operations offshore,” the groups said. “The law guarantees that U.S. multinational corporations will pay at most one-half the domestic tax rate on their offshore earnings, with many companies paying little or nothing in taxes on these earnings.”