Yesterday, we revealed how a bill that might have sought to close off-shore tax loopholes — and which might have helped catch Allen Stanford — died in Max Baucus’ Senate Finance committee in 2007.
Now, a Finance committee aide has provided an emailed statement to TPMmuckraker, making the case that the committee didn’t take up the bill, sponsored by Carl Levin, because Baucus differed with some aspects of the bill’s approach, and noting that Baucus is working on a separate bill to address the problem.
In a nutshell, according to the statement, Baucus favors an approach more targeted at giving the IRS the necessary tools to detect tax cheats than was the Levin bill, which took a broader tack.
The Chairman announced in 2008 that he is writing legislation to address the use of tax havens by individuals. In particular, Senator Baucus and his staff are working with Treasury and the IRS to give them the right tools to detect the tax abuse we are all concerned about. Senator Baucus’s goal is to move the sharpest possible bill that will give the IRS tools — including additional reporting requirements — to determine when a taxpayer uses a tax haven and the identity of the user.
It will be important to move legislation that gives the IRS the best chance to find abusers in the first place, in order to apply certain rebuttable presumptions that would make income US-sourced income on which US taxes should be paid.
The bill you mention is quite broad, and while it creates a series of changes to the burden of proof, that only helps once the IRS has detected the use of a tax haven.
The Finance Committee actively fights offshore tax havens - in the JOBS bill with inversions policy, tax shelter penalties, and increased transparency with regard to tax shelter promoters; in last year’s military bill, with provisions to stop US companies with Federal contracts from setting up entities in tax havens to run employees through in order to avoid employment taxes. FOGEI/FORI in the energy bill tightened up a bit the way oil and gas pay US tax on foreign-earned income. Other proposals have been made public as well, particularly with regard to Bermuda reinsurance. The Committee also sent the GAO to Ugland House in the Cayman Islands to investigate one of the most notorious suspected tax havens in the world. And the Committee will take this issue up again at a hearing in March.
In other words, according to the aide, this was an issue of legitimate policy differences — not an effort by Baucus to kill legislation opposed by a contributor.
We’ll be watching for those hearings in March.