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There is a wide bipartisan consensus that the U.S. international tax regime is broken. We have the highest corporate tax in the OECD, which at 35 percent imposes a real burden on corporations earning mostly U.S.-source income. At the same time, U.S.-based multinationals pay very low effective tax rates on foreign-source income earned through their subsidiaries, leading to a strong incentive to shift profits out of the United States. Finally, the United States is among the few countries to fully tax dividends paid by foreign subsidiaries to their domestic parents, leading to the “trapped income” phenomenon in which $2 trillion of low-taxed earnings of those subsidiaries cannot be repatriated because of the tax on repatriations and have to be declared as “permanently reinvested” overseas despite increasing difficulties to find something to do with this pile of money. There is also a broad consensus about what needs to be done: reduce the corporate rate, broaden the base by taxing off shore profits and eliminate the tax on repatriations, which affects behavior in negative ways without raising revenue. President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2016 does all three, but in a half-hearted way that does not fully address the problems and creates new ones.


Reproduced with permission.