Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

NY Times: How Joe Manchin Left Global Tax Deal In Limbo

New York Times, How Joe Manchin Left a Global Tax Deal in Limbo:

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s signature achievement is in jeopardy if the United States cannot ratify the tax agreement that she brokered.

In June, months after reluctantly signing on to a global tax agreement brokered by the United States, Ireland’s finance minister met privately with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, seeking reassurances that the Biden administration would hold up its end of the deal.

Ms. Yellen assured the minister, Paschal Donohoe, that the administration would be able to secure enough votes in Congress to ensure that the United States was in compliance with the pact, which was aimed at cracking down on companies evading taxes by shifting jobs and profits around the world.

It turns out that Ms. Yellen was overly optimistic. Late last week, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, effectively scuttled the Biden administration’s tax agenda in Congress — at least for now — by saying he could not immediately support a climate, energy and tax package he had spent months negotiating with the Democratic leadership. He expressed deep misgivings about the international tax deal, which he had previously indicated he could support, saying it would put American companies at a disadvantage.

Mr. Manchin’s reversal, couched in the language used by Republican opponents of the deal, is a blow to Ms. Yellen, who spent months getting more than 130 countries on board. It is also a defeat for President Biden and Democratic leaders in the Senate, who pushed hard to raise tax rates on many multinational corporations in hopes of leading the world in an effort to stop companies from shifting jobs and income to minimize their tax bills.

The agreement would have ushered in the most sweeping changes to global taxation in decades, including raising taxes on many large corporations and changing how technology companies are taxed. The two-pronged approach would entail countries enacting a 15 percent minimum tax so that companies pay a rate of at least that much on their global profits no matter where they set up shop. It would also allow governments to tax the world’s largest and most profitable companies based on where their goods and services were sold, not where their headquarters were.

Failure to get agreement at home creates a mess both for the Biden administration and for multinational corporations. Many other countries are likely to press ahead to ratify the deal, but some may now be emboldened to hold out, fracturing the coalition and potentially opening the door for some countries to continue marketing themselves as corporate tax havens.

For now, the situation will allow for the continued aggressive use of global tax avoidance strategies by companies like the pharmaceutical giant AbbVie. A Senate Finance Committee report this month found that the company made three-quarters of its sales to American customers in 2020, yet reported only 1 percent of its income in the United States for tax purposes — a move that allowed it to slash its effective tax rate to about half of the 21 percent American corporate income tax rate.

Not changing international tax laws could also sow new uncertainty for large tech companies, like Google and Amazon, and other businesses that earn money from consumers in countries where they do not have many employees or physical offices. Part of the global agreement was meant to give those companies more certainty on which countries could tax them, and how much they would have to pay.

Wall Street Journal, Sen. Joe Manchin Balks at Global Minimum Tax Championed by Biden:

“I don’t think this is an end,” said David Kamin, a New York University law professor who was a senior White House tax aide until earlier this year. “And there are routes forward for an international agreement to come into place even as there are certainly routes that it doesn’t.”

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