Obama’s anti-loophole call gets clean-energy exception

GIVING A BREAK: President Obama, calling for a simpler tax system, says that "it's time to stop subsidizing yesterday's energy; it's time to invest in tomorrow's." (Bloomberg)GIVING A BREAK: President Obama, calling for a simpler tax system, says that “it’s time to stop subsidizing yesterday’s energy; it’s time to invest in tomorrow’s.” (Bloomberg)
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Most corporate tax preferences benefit all corporations, while about one-fifth target specific sectors. Oil and gas companies receive almost $3 billion in tax breaks, according to the tax research group, compared with about $11 billion aimed at the renewable-energy industry.

In December, a bipartisan debt commission created by Mr. Obama called for ending $1 trillion in breaks for both individuals and corporations, but the 11-7 vote in favor of the plan fell short of the margin needed to advance it to Congress. The panel’s proposal would have used the savings to help reduce projected deficits by $4 trillion in the coming decade.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said lawmakers should look at ending special tax breaks in the corporate and the individual tax codes but said that shouldn’t be an excuse to pour the money back into the federal government.

“We should not use tax reform as a means of raising more money to spend. After all, Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” said Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican.

Some analysts argue that rolling back corporate tax breaks wouldn’t do nearly enough. Eric Toder, a fellow at the Urban Institute, said policymakers should instead repeal tax breaks for corporate shareholders to help deal with the problem of international tax avoidance.

“I’m not arguing against the desirability of closing some preferences and using it to buy down the corporate rate — I just don’t think it’s going to get you that far. The way corporations are able to get away from paying taxes is a problem that’s much more fundamental,” Mr. Toder said, citing the example of global Internet giant Google Inc., which was able legally to lower its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent through accounting techniques that moved its foreign profits through various countries.

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About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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