The traditional American corporation has been a fixture in the U.S. economy for generations. Corporations allow entrepreneurs to shield themselves from liability, spread ownership out to an unlimited number of shareholders, and more easily raise funds for large-scale business investments.
With recent news about Burger King and medical device manufacturer Medtronic relocating their headquarters outside of the United States to avoid high corporate taxes, the subject of corporate inversions has been a big topic of discussion in the media. While President Obama and the Treasury Department condemn these moves and construct roadblocks to prevent inversions, they fail to see the reasons that drive these corporations overseas.
American companies that reincorporate abroad are not doing so to avoid paying taxes on U.S. earnings, despite the often misleading impressions left by the rantings of Senators Carl Levin, Dick Durbin, Elizabeth Warren, and others to the contrary. They are doing it to avoid paying U.S. taxes on earnings in other countries.
The Obama Administration has proposed its latest form of collectivist control over the American people. In a letter to Congress U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, has called for punishment and prohibition of any company that tries to move its headquarters overseas to avoid higher taxes in the United States. Plus, Mr. Lew has the audacity to call his proposed territorial imprisonment of American business, “economic patriotism.”
The subject of tax inversion, in which American firms avail of lower tax rates in foreign countries by merging companies in those countries, has become very topical in the last couple weeks thanks to a decision by Abbvie, a drug company, to merger with Shire, an Ireland-based firm and move its headquarters overseas. One of at least 47 tax inversions in the last decade, the Abbvie-Shire deal is the largest such action yet, worth $54 billion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Obama and Democrats in Congress have become apoplectic with rage at the audacity of a business making a prudent decision to escape bloodsucking taxes.
President Obama’s speech yesterday on inequality is being lauded as one of the best of his life, by people who paid attention to it. It’s a sad speech to read, in some sense, since it contains within it the promise of a presidency that we never saw come to fruition – the sort of policy effort that might have been launched to bipartisan success in the first year of his presidency, instead of his effort on Obamacare.