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April 01. 2013

THE HILL: Corporations: America’s had top corporate tax for one year

By Bernie Becker

A corporate coalition is using a new anniversary to lobby lawmakers over the need for tax reform.

Top executives from corporations in the RATE Coalition noted Monday that Japan lowered its corporate tax rate exactly a year ago — a reduction that gave the U.S. the highest statutory rate in the industrialized world.

“Coupled with our complicated tax system, this rate makes American businesses less competitive and makes the U.S. a less attractive place for investment, ultimately harming businesses, investors, workers and consumers,” 19 executives and a pair of interest group presidents wrote to the top tax writers in both the House and the Senate.

“We know that some choices may be difficult and understand that base-broadeners, such as eliminating tax expenditures, may be necessary to achieve the significant reduction in the statutory rate that is required for the U.S. to better compete globally,” the executives added.

In their letter, the RATE coalition members noted that both President Obama and House Republicans have supported the idea of tax reform, and expressed support for comprehensive, and not just corporate, tax reform.

Top GOP lawmakers like House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have said that any overhaul of the tax code would have to include both the individual and corporate side, given how many small businesses pay taxes through the individual code.

Camp and other Republicans have called for lowering the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and House leaders have reserved the symbolically important H.R. 1 slot for a tax reform package that Camp has pledged to pass out of his panel this year.

The Obama administration, in a framework released last year, called for bringing the top rate to 28 percent, with manufacturers potentially being able to get down to 25 percent.

But some Democrats have also questioned whether there are enough tax breaks in the code to offset the costs of lowering the corporate rate to 25 percent. More broadly, Democrats and Republicans are still at odds over whether more revenues are needed strictly for deficit reduction.

There are also an increasing number of corporate coalitions lobbying for tax reform. The RATE Coalition, formed in 2011, has made lowering the corporate rate its biggest priority, while the newer LIFT America Coalition has shown more interest in a system that would limit U.S. taxation of offshore corporate profits.

The Business Roundtable, the prominent group of corporate CEOs that counts companies in both RATE and LIFT as members, also recently launched a new tax reform effort.

RATE members have said that they believe any and all tax breaks should be on the table in tax reform talks — at least in part because more than a couple companies in the coalition pay close to the current top statutory rate, unlike other more multinational corporations.

Chief executives from Boeing, Ford, Lockeed Martin and Disney were among the signers of Monday’s letter.

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