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"The Hill" featured Lubin Professor Philip G. Cohen's opinion piece in "Tax reform postmortem reveals lethal dose of crony capitalism"

05/22/2018 News Release Image

"The Hill" featured Lubin Professor Philip G. Cohen's opinion piece in "Tax reform postmortem reveals lethal dose of crony capitalism"

Philip G. Cohen is an associate professor of taxation at Pace University Lubin School of Business and a retired vice president – tax and general tax counsel at Unilever United States, Inc. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of any organization to which the author is or was associated with.

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing regarding the impact of P.L. 115-97, informally referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December 2017.

While Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) undoubtedly viewed this as an opportunity for a curtain call, TCJA is a poster child for poorly conceived, incredibly complex (even for a tax act) partisan legislation enacted without due deliberation, that will exacerbate the deficit and undoubtedly further drive good jobs and income off-shore.

It also punished blue states like New York, New Jersey and California by capping the itemized deduction for all state taxes at a mere $10,000, but managed to reduce the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.

Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who voted for TCJA, has expressed regrets when faced with a Congressional Budget Office estimate that TCJA will increase the federal budget deficit by $1.85 trillion in 2018-2028. Sen. Corker stated, "If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could well be one of the worst votes I've made."

Another TCJA supporter, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), also articulated remorse over TCJA, albeit for a different reason: "They [big corporations with the tax cuts] bought back shares; a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." 

This latter comment was reinforced by a survey of economists by the National Association for Business Economics, which found that "two-thirds of business economists [indicated that] the 2017 tax law isn't changing their firms' and industries hiring or investment plans."

While there was somewhat widespread belief that the pre-TCJA top corporate statutory rate of 35 percent needed to be reduced, what was the rationale for slashing the rate to 21 percent?

Furthermore, why was untaxed pre-TCJA offshore earnings of U.S. multinationals only taxed at rates of 15.5 percent for cash and cash equivalents and 8 percent for other assets, coupled with the tax being spread over eight years and heavily back-loaded? 

In addition, why has the nation's tax laws moved in the direction of quasi-territoriality, wherein most foreign-sourced dividends received by 10 percent or more domestic corporate shareholders will get 100 percent dividends received deduction, i.e., they pay no federal income tax.

The answer to all three questions is that this was a pay-off to major campaign contributors, where their interests prevailed over those of the nation.

Read the full article.