Tax holiday a giveaway at a cost
Despite abundant evidence to the contrary over the last few decades, some members of Congress are about to try to prove, yet again, that they can raise money through massive corporate tax breaks.
This time, the goal is to refill the nearly empty Highway Trust Fund by legislating a "tax holiday" for corporations that hoard scores of billions of dollars overseas to evade U.S. taxes. Apple Inc. alone is believed to be sitting on about $100 billion in Ireland.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, have promoted a plan that would allow corporations to "repatriate" their overseas cash while allowing them to evade taxes on about 85 percent of it.
They say that would produce between $20 billion and $30 billion in federal tax revenue over the next two years, because so many corporations would rush to take advantage of such a sweet deal.
Over time, however, the deal likely would lose money for the government because the corporations would get the deal on profits on which they would have paid taxes. As reported by the New York Times, one government analysis pegged the 10-year loss at $96 billion.
Regardless, the proposal doesn't address another fundamental tax issue - fairness. What about companies, domestic and international, that dutifully have paid their taxes at prevailing rates while some of the world's largest corporations have hoarded their profits in overseas tax havens.
Congress should indeed strive to resuscitate the Highway Trust Fund. But the need to do so also gives it yet another opportunity for meaningful corporate tax reform rather than a corporate tax giveaway.