U.S. multinational corporations are hoarding an estimated $2 trillion “offshore” to take advantage of a loophole in our tax laws. At our 35 percent top federal corporate tax rate, that represents up to $700 billion in taxes owed but “deferred” because they are “offshore.” This is not imaginary or future money; it is taxes owed on $2 trillion of profits these companies have already made. Who should get this money?
A loophole in the corporate tax code allows companies to “defer” paying taxes on profits made outside of the U.S. until they “repatriate” it – bring the money back to the U.S. Because of this loophole corporations are holding an estimated $2 trillion of profits “offshore.” Companies are increasingly moving jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this scheme – or are engaging in schemes to make it look like they are. (The amount is increasing 11.8 percent a year and the rate of increase is increasing as well.)
That $700 billion is serious money. Washington lobbyists are working with Congress to come up with various corporate tax “reform” schemes designed to let the corporations off the hook for much of this tax bill – and to lower their future tax bills as well.
The most popular “centrist” idea is to let the corporations just keep much or most of the tax money they owe, if only they would just let us use some of it to maintain our country’s infrastructure. Going along with this would reward these companies for engaging in schemes to “offshore” jobs, production and profit centers, thereby moving (or making it appear that they moved) these profits out of the country – and certainly would encourage doing even more of this from now on.
Send A $2,000 Check To Every Adult – AND Fix Our Infrastructure
Instead of letting these companies off the hook for this tax bill, here is an alternative idea: Let’s collect the taxes that are due on these profits that have already been made, send every adult in the U.S. a check for $2,000, and use what’s left over to fix up our infrastructure.
This is real money, and a lot of it. Instead of making a “deal” on deferment and letting the corporations just keep this money they owe us, let’s fix this loophole and give most of this tax money to the 242 million U.S. residents over 18 as a $2,000 check. What’s left over (and there might be a lot – as much as $215 billion) can be used to fix our infrastructure and other priorities like research and development, fighting Ebola and other diseases, forgiving student debt – you name it.
This is about who gets the money. Do we give the tax money that is already owed to We the People, or do we let the giant corporations just keep it? By making this about a $2,000 check directly to every adult, it becomes personal. It becomes an issue of real money in people’s pockets, not some distant sum that “government” uses for their own good but that people never really feel or touch. Sending people a $2,000 check turns this battle over this money into a personal fight, not just some nebulous, distant, complicated government policy issue.
Who Should Get The Money?
By the way, when we talk about “corporate” money and corporate tax cuts, this is what – more accurately “who” – we are really talking about:
The top 1 percent own 50.9 percent of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10 percent own 90.3 percent. The bottom half of all of us own 0.5 percent – one half of one percent. That was 2007 – the top few have only increased their ownership percentages since.
This is about who gets the money. There is up to $700 billion in taxes due and someone is going to get that money. By making this about a $2,000 check to each adult American vs. billions to the owners of the giant corporations, we’re making the “who gets the money” argument personal instead of abstract.
Effect On Economy
What happens to our economy if every adult gets a $2000 check? How much hiring happens in local stores, etc?
What happens to our economy with up to $215 billion going into infrastructure work, with the related hiring and purchases of supplies?
What happens to our economy if companies lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers offshore to take advantage of this loophole?
But wait, there’s more. There’s also that other $1.3 trillion – the “after tax” part that is offshore, too. If we do something about this deferment scam companies would lose the incentive to move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to make it look like their profits are made elsewhere, and would “bring that money back.” The money would either be invested in the corporation or distributed to shareholders. This would be a big stimulus to the economy either way.
There’s as much as $2 trillion (maybe more) sitting offshore representing up to $700 billion in taxes owed at the top tax rate of 35 percent. (Taxes already paid to other countries are subtracted from what is owed here. This is why the tax bill is “up to” $700 billion. State taxes are also due on these profits, this article concerns itself with the federal share.)
According to the Census Bureau’s QuickFacts there were 316,128,839 Americans in 2013, 23.3 percent of them under 18, leaving 242,470,819 adults.
Sending a $2,000 check to 242.5 million adults costs about $485 billion. Up to $700 billion owed minus $485 billion leaves up to $215 billion for infrastructure and other priorities.
It’s a great way to accomplish several things that are good for the country:
1) Get cash to people right now. Helicoptered in, $700 billion would make a very big difference that people would feel now and the economy would feel for a while.
2) A $2,000 check shows people how corporate tax breaks are seriously costing them.
3) This puts pressure on “corporate tax reform” deals that reward the corporations by letting them keep any of it.
5) The best part is these companies already owe the money. This is about who gets the money that is owed to We the People. It makes the “We the People” part personal.
The awareness “making this personal” would bring to the issue would lend public support to other efforts to get companies to pay their taxes.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on November 19, 2014, on Seeing the Forest, a website featuring commentary by Dave Johnson, frequent public speaker and talk-radio guest and a leading participant in the progressive blogging community. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Johnson.