How a fairer tax code can improve America’s infrastructure

tax-newColumn by Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Sander Levin

As Congress heads home to celebrate the Fourth of July, it leaves with two critical issues unaddressed.

The first is the increasing – and troubling – trend of big corporations essentially giving up their American citizenship and reincorporating overseas to reduce their U.S. taxes. Despite the fact that our nation has made significant investments to enable their success – investments like roads and bridges over which they move their products to consumers – more and more big corporations are using a legal maneuver to avoid their fair share of taxes. These corporations will combine with a smaller foreign firm and then claim that the combined corporation is no longer American for tax purposes. These corporate “inversions” cost American taxpayers billions of dollars and are unfair to the vast majority of businesses – large and small – that stay in America and pay their fair share. Unfortunately, wall street analysts expect this trend to continue and possibly accelerate.

The second critical issue is our limited window to replenish the Highway Trust Fund – the way that the federal government partners with states and communities to build and maintain our national transportation network. States have already started to slow down projects that are critical to transportation systems across the country. And if Congress does not act soon, 112,000 roadway projects and 5,600 transit projects could be brought to a halt starting this summer – threatening 700,000 construction jobs at a time when unemployment in that industry stands at over 8 percent. Unfortunately, the Republican House majority has failed to advance any serious solutions to our immediate infrastructure needs.

That is why we introduced legislation last week to solve both of these problems. The Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America’s Infrastructure Act will put an end to tax-avoiding corporate expatriations and devote the resulting revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, which will address the immediate funding crisis facing America’s highway and transit systems this summer.

Investments in infrastructure used to be something that had bipartisan support. As families hit the road for summer vacations, the urgent need to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges will be more evident – there is a reason the American Society for Civil Engineers gave our national infrastructure the grade of a D+. At the same time, corporate expatriations are a growing problem that cost billions of dollars and undermine vital domestic priorities – and the American people understand that it’s simply not right that large corporations can avoid U.S. taxes by changing their address. Our bill stops the revenue loss from corporate expatriations, and it uses those dollars to fund transportation projects and create jobs here at home.

The writers are, respectively, the Ranking Democrats on the House Budget and House Ways and Means Committees.


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