AOC calls SALT deduction a ‘gift to billionaires,’ opposes effort to hold up infrastructure bill

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

  • Repealing a cap on the state and local taxes deduction would be “a giveaway to the rich,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday.
  • The Trump tax cut of 2017 slashed the SALT deduction to $10,000 from an unlimited amount.
  • Some Democrats want to get rid of the cap, as itemized deductions can be very high in blue states like New York and California.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the democratic socialist known as “AOC,” is breaking with members of her party who want to undo a major part of Trump’s 2017 tax cut, accusing them of favoring an unequivocal “giveaway to the rich.”

That would be the federal cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which some Democrats in high-income-tax states have been working to roll back for four years now.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, calls the cap on the SALT deduction “mean-spirited” and “politically targeted,” arguing that former President Donald Trump’s White House designed this policy to hurt the wealthy in blue states, in particular. Others even want to hold up one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities if they don’t get their way. That would be the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan Biden unveiled this month, the first of a two-part package, which he would like to fund with tax revenue rather than deficit-finance.

“I don’t think we should be holding the infrastructure package hostage for a 100% repeal of SALT,” Ocasio-Cortez told Huff Post’s Igor Bobic, according to a pool report. “I think we can have a conversation about the policy, but it’s a bit of an extreme position, to be frank.”

The politics of SALT can be a bit confusing. In 2017, Republicans capped the SALT deduction at $10,000, a progressive reform in an otherwise regressive bill.

But this particular giveaway – enabling taxpayers who itemize their returns to lower their bill to the IRS – has an unusually high number of liberal fans who argue that it only penalizes the better-off in parts of the country that have solidly Democratic governments (and their generally higher tax rates).

The argument has flared up again as Congress debates Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan – and how to pay for it. So far, the White House has proposed partially rolling back another aspect of the 2017 tax cut, which slashed corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%; he wants to raise it back to 28%.

But some in the president’s party are threatening to oppose any legislation that does not also reduce some of the federal government’s ability to collect taxes from those who claim the now-restricted SALT deduction.

“No SALT, no deal,” Rep. Thomas Suozzi, another New York Democrat, told The Hill.

Ocasio-Cortez, however, argued that it would not be “just” to simply abolish the cap.

“I think it’s just a giveaway to the rich,” she said, “and I think it’s a gift to billionaires.”

Experts more or less agree. In a 2019 piece for Insider, Scott Eastman, federal research manager at the Tax Foundation, wrote that repealing the cap would “almost exclusively benefit wealthy taxpayers, making the tax code less progressive” – and depriving the federal government of money it will need to fund Democrats’ agenda.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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GOP senators oppose corporate tax hike as ‘non-negotiable red line’ as they float taxes on drivers to pay for infrastructure

Shelley Moore Capito
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Republicans were strongly opposed to corporate tax hike.
  • “I think that’s a non-negotiable red line,” she said, and other top Republicans around her agreed.
  • Republicans are drafting an infrastructure plan that may be mostly financed with taxes on drivers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that GOP senators won’t budge from their resistance to hiking corporate taxes, a key element in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

“I think that’s a non-negotiable red line,” Capito told reporters on Thursday of her party’s opposition to increasing corporate taxation.

Other Republican senators at the news conference said they agreed with Capito. The group also included Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, and John Cornyn of Texas.

Democrats assailed the Republican comments. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, called the red line a “completely unreasonable” position.

“Republicans’ insistence that the most profitable companies in the world shouldn’t contribute a single penny to investments in roads, schools and our clean-energy future is simply not acceptable,” Wyden said in a statement.

A faction of Senate Republicans in recent days appeared to be prepping a $600 billion to $800 billion infrastructure counterproposal to Biden’s $2.3 trillion package. Several lawmakers suggested financing the plan with a vehicle mileage tax on electric vehicles or raising the gas tax.

“I think we still haven’t defined what we mean by infrastructure and what’s going to be included and so how much it’s going to be, we don’t really have an idea,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters on Thursday. “It’s a very early process that we’ve engaged in.”

Still, other Democrats described the $800 billion indicated by Capito as too meager to address the country’s infrastructure needs. “We’re going to do whatever it takes. If it takes $4 trillion, I’d do $4 trillion but we have to pay for it,” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters on Thursday.

A JPMorgan economic research note on Thursday found that, although the corporate tax rate was higher than the global average before former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut, the US had a lower ratio of corporate tax revenues to GDP dating back to 2000.

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JPMorgan says it’s time for US corporate taxes to catch back up with the rest of the world

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Trump Biden
Presidents Joe Biden (L) and Donald Trump (R).

  • JPMorgan said the US should increase corporate tax rates to catch up to other world economies.
  • The US is more focused than other countries on raising tax revenue from personal income and housing.
  • Even before the 2017 Trump tax cut, it found US corporate tax revenues lower than the global average.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden kicked off a major debate in early April when he proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to fund his $4 trillion infrastructure plan. Now JPMorgan has weighed in on the matter and it finds corporate tax revenue is lower in the US than elsewhere, even if the rate is now close to the international average.

And as sentiment appears strong in the US that American corporations don’t “pay their fair share,” the bank found that relative to other economies, the US “prioritizes raising tax revenue from personal income and property.” In other words, the current American tax system raises more from people’s paychecks and real-estate investments than from companies, compared to the rest of the world.

JPMorgan’s economic research note on Thursday found that prior to President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, the US statutory corporate tax rate of 35% was high compared to other countries, but that law slashed them by 13.2% – the largest decline ever.

Furthermore, the bank found that dating back to 2000, revenues actually collected from American corporate taxes only represented about 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), versus a 3% average globally. This reflects, the bank said, “a complex system of exemptions and deductions embedded in the US tax code that reduces the corporate tax base and results in corporate taxes contributing a much lower share of total tax revenue in the US than elsewhere.”

And after the Trump tax cut, this percentage fell to just 1% of GDP. This explains the American reliance on taxing personal income and housing, the note said.

“The US stands out as having both the highest share of revenue from personal income (both labor and investment) across the economies we examine, and the smallest share of tax revenue from taxes on goods and services,” the note said.

While Biden and Democrats have supported raising the corporate tax rate to fund infrastructure, Republican lawmakers oppose doing so. For example, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said that rolling back Trump’s 2017 tax cuts would be “an almost impossible sell” to get bipartisan support.

And Insider reported on Thursday that a group of Republican senators are drafting their own infrastructure plan – one that would cost between $600 billion and $800 billion, and would be funded without any corporate tax hikes.

“My own view is that the pay-for ought to come from people who are using it. So if its an airport, the people who are flying,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who is helping draft the plan, told reporters. “If it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port; if it’s a rail system, the people who are using the rails; If it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline powered vehicle.”

But Biden has remained firm on increasing the corporate tax rate to 28%, saying in a speech last week that the tax hike would level the playing field for large companies and average Americans.

He said: “I’m not trying to punish anybody, but damn it, maybe it’s because I come from a middle-class neighborhood, I’m sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced.”

JPMorgan doesn’t put it in quite those terms, but its note concludes that so-called ordinary people account for a greater share of tax revenue in the US than elsewhere.

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American voters overwhelmingly like the stuff the GOP wants to strip out of Biden’s infrastructure plan

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • A CNBC poll found that just 36% of voters support Biden’s infrastructure plan as is.
  • But most supported funding for nontraditional infrastructure measures, like caregiving and climate.
  • The GOP argues that anything unrelated to physical infrastructure doesn’t belong, but voters seem to disagree.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden unveiled his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package two weeks ago, and a CNBC survey found overwhelming support for it, but only parts of it. That’s where it gets interesting.

According to a CNBC survey released on Thursday, just 36% of Americans supported Biden’s infrastructure plan as he presented it – only three percentage points higher than those who oppose the plan, at 33%. This is about half the level of support that Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan received in similar polling in March.

Since Biden unveiled the plan, Republican lawmakers have attacked his definition of infrastructure, saying that a new bill should focus on physical infrastructure, like roads and brides, and should exclude measures related to the care economy like universal pre-K, as well as things like climate change initiatives. Senate Republicans are drafting a bill focused on roads and bridges, Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported.

The CNBC poll illustrates the catch for Republicans: the nontraditional aspects of Biden’s plan are very popular. This could prove pivotal for its future, as the White House has stressed that its definition of bipartisanship doesn’t focus just on what Republican politicians favor, but on what Republican voters favor as well.

The poll noted that a “31% slice of the public say they don’t know enough to venture an opinion, suggesting an opportunity for each political party to make headway.”

Despite the majority of respondents opposing the president’s plan, an overwhelming majority supported specific funding proposals within the plan.

Of the following four main findings, three are measures the GOP has argued for excluding from the bill:

  • 87% of the public backed fixing roads and bridges;
  • 82% of the public supported increasing pay for elderly caregivers;
  • 78% of the public supported expanding high-speed broadband;
  • And 70% of the public supported fixing the electrical grid and making buildings and homes more energy efficient.

The poll also found that 50% of respondents supported raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to pay for the plan. When asked about corporate tax hikes generally, 46% said it was a bad idea because it would raise wages and cost jobs, while 43% said corporate tax hikes should be raised to pay for infrastructure because companies “do not pay their fair share.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”

And South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, said during a Fox News interview in early April that she was “shocked” and at how little of Biden’s plan relates to infrastructure, although her comments indicated that she is unclear on what constitutes physical infrastructure.

“It goes into research and development, it goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy, and it’s not really an honest conversation that we’re having about what this proposal is,” Noem said.

John Bolten, chief executive officer of Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of the largest US companies, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that the organization wants Biden to limit the scope of the package to mainly address roads and bridges and “leave the rest of the stuff for something else.”

He added, though, that “more modern infrastructure” also needs investment, citing broadband as an example.

Biden’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Cecilia Rouse said on April 3 that America needs an upgraded definition of infrastructure to meet “the needs of a 21st-century economy.”

A New York Times poll released on Thursday found that 64% of voters approve of Biden’s infrastructure plan, 84% of voters support rebuilding roads and bridges, and 78% support expanded broadband.

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Biden meets with bipartisan group on $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, saying he’s open to negotiate

Joe Biden Oval Office
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden held his first official meeting with eight bipartisan lawmakers to discuss infrastructure.
  • He told reporters that he is willing to negotiate on both the size and the scope of his plan.
  • Republican lawmakers argue his plan is too focused on things aside from physical infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For the first time since unveiling his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package two weeks ago, President Joe Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss the proposal.

Eight lawmakers, including Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate, Science, and Transportation Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Sam Graves, and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, joined Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office to kick off bipartisan discussions.

“I’m prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure package, as well as how we pay for it,” Biden told reporters after the meeting.

He also dismissed the idea that the meeting was just “window dressing,” and said he was “prepared to negotiate as to the extent of the infrastructure project as well as how we pay for it,” citing broadband and clean-water access as important parts of his definition of infrastructure.

This meeting followed a press briefing earlier in the day, when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is “absolutely” willing to negotiate on the size and scope of the package.

With regard to scope, Republican lawmakers have argued that it’s too focused on things besides rebuilding physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges. For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement two weeks ago that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”

And with regards to the size of the plan, Republican lawmakers have said the $2.3 trillion price tag, along with Biden’s proposed tax hikes, are too high.

Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Roger Wicker, who attended the meeting, told ABC News in an interview on Sunday, “We are willing to negotiate with him [Biden] on an infrastructure package, and this trillion-dollar number is way too high for me.”

He added that negotiations on the plan have to look different than the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that passed in February without any Republican votes.

Some Democrats have said they’d like to see some changes to the package. Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on a West Virginia radio talk show last week that he does not support Biden’s proposed corporate tax increase to 28%. “Well, the bill basically is not going to end up that way,” he said.

Psaki emphasized in the Monday press briefing that Biden genuinely wants to work with both parties to create a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“You don’t use the president of the United States’ time, multiple times over … if you did not want to authentically hear from the members attending about their ideas about how to move forward this package,” she said.

Also in the meeting were Democratic Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California, and Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who all sit on committees relevant to rebuilding infrastructure.

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CEO group says Biden should stick to ‘real infrastructure’ and ‘leave the rest of the stuff for something else’

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Business Roundtable’s CEO told Bloomberg that Biden’s infrastructure plan should stick to roads and bridges.
  • The lobbying group also opposes raising the corporate tax to 28% as a way to fund the plan.
  • Biden expressed willingness to work with Republicans on negotiating the size of the tax hike.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is ambitious. It includes funding for things like climate change and research initiatives, and an influential business lobbying group wants Biden to scale things way back.

Josh Bolten, chief executive officer of Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of the largest US companies, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday that the organization wants Biden to limit the scope of the package to mainly address roads and bridges and “leave the rest of the stuff for something else.”

Bolten, who was former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff for almost three years, did not clarify what he was referring to as “something else.”

“It’s the real infrastructure that can attract bipartisan support,” Bolten said, adding that “more modern infrastructure” also needs investment, citing broadband as an example. In this regard, Bolten is slightly more positive on Biden’s plan than Republican leadership, which has argued that very little of Biden’s plan fits the definition of infrastructure. In fact, Bolten said the Business Roundtable favors a “substantial amount” of what Biden has proposed. For his part, Biden has argued that infrastructure has always periodically undergone reinventions, in step with technology.

Biden’s plan also includes a proposed corporate tax rate increase to 28%, and Bolten said the group, which includes the CEOS of Apple and Amazon, is “strongly against” that proposal. Former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut slashed the rate from 35% to 21%.

“It’s a massive tax increase on US business, which is really damaging, not just to the shareholders of all those businesses but to the employees and customers as well,” he said. The hike, he added, “would make us once again the least competitive in the developed world.”

Earlier this week, Bolten issued a statement criticizing Treasury Secretary’s related efforts to establish a global corporate minimum tax rate, saying it “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.”

Insider reported on Thursday that while 65% of voters support corporate tax hikes to pay for infrastructure, Republican lawmakers, and even some Democrats, are opposed to doing so.

For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Biden’s plan will get no Republican support in the Senate because “the last thing the economy needs right now is a big, whopping tax increase,” and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on a West Virginia radio show that he would not support a corporate tax increase to 28%. Manchin does want an increase, though, and seems more comfortable with 25%.

The 28% rate seemed reasonable last year to Gary Cohn, the former head of Trump’s National Economic Council. He said at the time he was “actually OK at 28%.”

In a speech on Wednesday, Biden said he would be willing to negotiate with Republicans on the size of the corporate tax increase.

“I’m wide open, but we got to pay for this,” Biden said. “I am willing to negotiate that.”

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Nike, FedEx, and 24 other companies with $77 billion of combined income have avoided paying taxes for years, a new report found

Nike Beijing
Customers lined up outside the Nike flagship store on the opening day at Wangfujing Street on January 20, 2021 in Beijing, China.

  • 55 publicly traded companies paid $0 in federal taxes last year, a study by ITEP found.
  • Nike and FedEx are among 26 companies that have not paid federal taxes in three years.
  • In 2020, the 55 companies avoided paying about $12 billion in federal taxes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

55 of America’s biggest companies paid $0 in federal taxes last year, a new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found.

The 55 publicly traded companies would have paid an estimated $12 billion in federal taxes if not for corporate tax breaks in 2020, including $8.5 billion in tax avoidance and $3.5 billion in tax rebates, the report found using regulatory filings and other information.

Nearly half of the companies have avoided paying federal taxes for the last three years, according to the report. Nike, FedEx, and DTE Energy were among 26 companies that recorded $77 billion in combined pre-tax income in the past three years, but did not pay any federal income taxes.

The news comes at the same time President Joe Biden looks to raise taxes on corporations. The White House announced this week that it plans to limit the number of companies that do not pay federal taxes, as well as increase the corporate tax rate to 28% – raising an estimated $2 trillion over the course of 15 years.

How do multi-billion dollar companies avoid federal taxes?

ITEP’s data found some of the nation’s biggest companies have been avoiding federal taxes for decades, dating back to the Reagan administration. The companies, which encompass a wide variety of industries, use a range of tactics, including tax exemptions and deductions.

While company tax returns are private, publicly traded companies must file financial reports that include information on federal income taxes. Using the financial reports as well as data on each companies’ pre-tax income, ITEP was able to analyze some of the major resources the companies used to avoid paying federal taxes.

In 2017, the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 amended the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, the Washington-based research group said the act failed to address major loopholes in the tax code.

“When President Trump signaled his intention to cut corporate taxes in 2017, he and Congress had an opportunity to pare back the many loopholes that have allowed companies to avoid tax on much of their income since the 1980s,” the report said. “Now, with three years of data published on the effective tax rates paid by publicly traded companies, it is clear that the Trump law has not meaningfully curtailed corporate tax avoidance and may even be encouraging it.”

Read more: When businesses should file taxes this year and how to get an extension if you need more time

The 2017 tax bill dropped the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% – a corporate tax rate that is below average for most countries represented in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group that represents 37 developed countries. The act also allows companies to immediately write off the cost of new equipment and machinery.

Some of the loopholes ITEP found many companies used include tax breaks for executive stock options which allowed the companies to write off stock-option expenses.

Multiple companies, including Nike and Hewlett Packard, used federal research and experimentation tax credits to reduce their incomes, while companies like DTE Energy and Duke Energy used tax breaks for renewable energy to avoid paying federal taxes.

The CARES Act made it even easier for companies to avoid taxes

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act which was passed last year to help alleviate the economic distress of the pandemic and help businesses survive, provided the 55 companies with over $500 million in tax breaks, according to ITEP.

Dozens of publicly traded companies used provision from the CARES Act that temporarily allowed businesses to use losses in 2020 to offset profits earned in previous years, according to the research group.

FedEx was one of the companies that used the CARES Act to reduce tax bills from prior years when the tax rate was higher.

The company told Insider the CARES Act “helped companies like FedEx navigate a rapidly changing economy and marketplace while continuing to invest in capital, hire team members, and fund employee pension plans.”

Nike, HP, Salesforce, Duke Energy, and DTE Energy did not respond to a request from Insider for a comment.

In its report, the left-leaning research group pointed to several tax code amendments that could cut down on the number of companies that do not pay federal taxes, including a “minimum tax” for profitable companies, as well as cutting back on tax breaks for public companies.

Biden has repeatedly expressed interest in increasing taxes for major corporations as a way to fund his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

On Wednesday, Biden called out Amazon for avoiding federal taxes. After paying $0 in federal taxes for two years, Amazon started paying federal income taxes in 2019.

Biden said he was aware the company was one of many Fortune 500 companies that use loopholes to avoid taxes, while middle class families are not afforded the same opportunities and pay over 20% tax rates.

“I don’t want to punish them, but that’s just wrong,” Biden said.

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Trump-era stimulus let corporations claim $14 billion in tax refunds, watchdog says

IRS office
  • Tax breaks included in the CARES Act let corporations receive $14 billion in refunds, the GAO said.
  • Roughly 1,200 firms received refunds worth more than $1 million, according to the Wednesday report.
  • The CARES Act won bipartisan support, but Democrats have since slammed the breaks as poorly targeted.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will dole out $14 billion in tax refunds to corporations thanks to controversial provisions included in last year’s CARES Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Wednesday.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump in the early stages of the pandemic included a swath of measures aimed at reducing tax burdens for struggling businesses. Tenets included carrybacks for business losses and refunds linked to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The IRS has already received more than 41,000 cases from businesses looking to access refunds through either, or both, of the two tax breaks, according to a GAO report. Roughly $14 billion in related refunds were approved by the end of last year. Of that, about $11 billion has already been distributed.

Yet while the tax breaks included in the CARES Act were touted as ways to keep small businesses afloat, many of the companies filing for relief are winning massive refunds. Nearly 3,000 companies filing for refunds received between $100,000 and $999,000, according to the report. And roughly 1,200 firms got refunds worth more than $1 million.

Bloomberg first reported on the tax break.

US tax law allows businesses to use net operating losses from unprofitable years to cancel out future tax bills in a carryover process. The CARES Act widened this provision to allow operating losses to be carried back as far as five years, effectively letting companies hit by the pandemic dodge some tax burdens.

The CARES Act passed in March 2020 on a nearly unanimous basis, but Democrats have since criticized some of its tax breaks for issuing relief to wealthy companies and Americans. Some lawmakers have even called for the measures to be repealed.

Republicans, however, have pointed out that Democrats backed the bill’s passage and that similar policies have been used in past downturns.

The GAO’s report suggests the $14 billion in approved refunds are the tip of the iceberg for CARES-related tax breaks. IRS officials said in late January they received more than 12,000 more applications for carrybacks and credit refunds, but that they aren’t yet sure how many are related to the CARES Act. A backlog of revised tax returns could also add to the total amount refunded to corporations, the GAO said.

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Biden is reportedly getting even more serious about taxing the wealthy

joe biden
President Joe Biden participates in a conference phone call with governors affected by a snowstorm in the Midwest and southwest Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House.

  • Bloomberg reports that Biden is getting more serious about some taxes targeting the rich.
  • The increases come amidst growing economic disparity throughout the pandemic.
  • Capital gains, larger corporations, and high-earners could feel the impact of the hikes under talks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is getting even more serious about raising taxes on the wealthy, according to a new Bloomberg report. It likely won’t look like a “wealth tax,” though.

Biden hasn’t said he’d enact a wealth tax like the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and instead he’s reportedly considering alterations to the tax code that would increase taxes on high earners without creating a brand-new tax that targets wealth.

Biden has already said that Americans making over $400,000 will see a “small to significant” tax increase. High-earning Americans could see their income taxes increase to 39%.

Now, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, David Kamin has told Bloomberg what other tax changes are currently under discussion. One is eliminating the stepped-up basis, something that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has already been eyeing.

That measure has to do with inheritance, and how inherited assets are valued for tax purposes. Current law lets assets that have gained value since they were originally acquired be valued at their market price and only taxed on increase from the value at the time of inheritance – not any of the prior gains.

Also under consideration, according to Bloomberg, is increasing the tax rate on capital gains, taxing them at the same rate as the income tax.

Capital gains – profits made from selling assets like stocks – are taxed differently from income once the owner has had the asset for over a year. The rates for those gains are generally lower than the income tax. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump mostly weighed even more cuts to capital-gains tax rates. Biden’s proposal could bring the rates up to 39% for those making the most money, a far cry from rates that currently come to around 20%. Also, wealthier Americans are exactly the type of people likelier to own assets that can be sold for a capital gain.

Finally, Biden wants to raise taxes on business.

Yellen is working toward creating a global minimum corporate tax rate, under the idea that if the US can convince most other countries to set the corporate tax rate at a certain level, Biden can raise corporate taxes without fear of multinationals leaving the country.

Growing disparity has underscored the push for a tax increase

According to Bloomberg, the “administration’s intentions” have been reinforced by the K-shaped recovery taking place throughout the pandemic in which high-income Americans have seen their jobs and wages grow, while low-income Americans experience the opposite. Biden himself used the term during a 2020 presidential debate.

Throughout the pandemic, low-wage and minority workers have been hit the hardest; those low-wage jobs may also not return post-pandemic, requiring workers to learn new skills and move into different fields. On the whole, workers globally have lost $3.7 trillion in wages during the pandemic, while the world’s billionaires have added $3.9 trillion to their cumulative net worths. In the US alone, billionaires added $1.3 trillion to their net worths during the pandemic.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus did offer some relief – and increased consumer confidence – for low-income Americans. That package was passed through reconciliation, which seems to be the most likely route forward for any Democratic tax hikes.

Tax increases – and what the wealthy are (or aren’t) paying – have been a hot topic

A new report found that the top 1% of Americans are avoiding taxes more than anticipated; they’ve been failing to report about 21% of their income.

There’s also been a more targeted push by progressives to introduce a new tax on wealth. Warren introduced a new bill that would increase taxes on the top 0.05% of households. If the measure had been in place in 2020, it would have raised $114 billion from billionaires alone.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said Warren and Biden share similar objectives for addressing that “those at the top are not doing their part,” but the two ultimately have different plans.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Warren praised the American Rescue Plan and Biden’s continual advocacy for it. “There is momentum now for real change, and tax policy is a critical part of that change,” she told Bloomberg.

Warren also recently Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive Democrats in introducing a bill that would target corporations where CEOs are at least 50 times more than the median worker. That bill could raise up to $150 billion in 10 years.

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Janet Yellen wants to overhaul corporate taxes for the whole world – she’s talking to other countries about a minimum rate

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

  • The Washington Post reports Treasury Secretary Yellen is working on a global minimum tax rate.
  • The nonbinding rate would apply to multinationals, as she seeks to keep them from shopping for the lowest territory.
  • Yellen and Biden want to raise the corporate tax rate but need the rest of the world onboard.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been clear since her confirmation hearing and subsequent press appearances that the Biden administration needs to raise new tax revenues. At the same time, she’s warned of the difficulties of implementing a wealth tax, which is favored by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Part of the solution is reforming the corporate tax rate – not just in the US but far beyond its borders.

To that end, Yellen is in active talks with other countries about setting a global minimum rate for corporate taxes, The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein first reported.

The US was long an outlier, with a corporate tax rate of 35% versus the international average of 24%, until former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut slashed the corporate rate to 21%. But even that hasn’t stopped other countries from lowering their rates to attract multinationals. The Post noted that nine countries lowered their corporate tax rate just last year.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a mentor of Yellen’s, told the Post that if she is successful in these talks, it would be “a little like the Paris climate accord of taxes.” Yellen is holding talks with more than 140 international counterparts via the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where countries are looking at global tax issues, with a particular focus on tech.

The goal for now is a nonbinding consensus on a minimum tax rate within the OECD, with the thinking that the US could move off the Trump-era 21% without fear of multinationals leaving to pay taxes at a lower rate somewhere else.

In the background of Yellen’s push for a global minimum is the Biden administration’s current push to find more tax revenue. President Joe Biden is reportedly planning the first major federal tax increase in nearly three decades, according to Bloomberg. One of the proposals on the table is a raise to the corporate tax, something that Biden campaigned on. He’s proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28%.

The right-leaning Tax Foundation found that, since 1980, the “worldwide average statutory corporate tax rate has consistently decreased,” with the biggest drops coming in the early 2000s. According to the Tax Foundation, “the worldwide average statutory corporate income tax rate” is 23.85%.

Biden also just said this week that Americans earning over $400,000 could see an increase in their taxes, a measure he acknowledged may not win any Republican support.

There could be a complicated path forward for Yellen’s corporate minimum, per the Post. Congress may need to be involved in approving new tax rules, and it could take the countries involved years to enact the tax, if they even choose to adopt it.

As the Post reports, if the complex measure is successful, it would be a huge accomplishment for both Yellen and Biden’s presidency – and maybe the world. It could also help pay for a $2 trillion infrastructure package.

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