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Congress is in recess through the mid-term elections. The Daily Deduction will post each Monday until then.
In Oregon, Comcast’s cable service is ruled a “communication” service, and its tax bill could be huge. So said the Oregon Supreme Court late last week: Property that Comcast uses to provide cable services, in addition to property used for internet service, is subject to central assessment by the Oregon Department of Revenue. Comcast’s real market and maximum assessed property values now climb from $434 million to $1.135 billion. This could restore millions of dollars in tax payments to counties, and could cost Comcast several million dollars a year. The Oregon Tax Court now has to decide how property tax limits under Oregon’s Measure 50 apply to the case.
One inversion deal continues: Medtronic borrows an extra $16 billion to buy Covidien. The Minnesota medical device maker was going to use overseas cash held by it and Covidien to help pay for its purchase of Covidien. The tactic was known as a “hopscotch loan” and helped companies avoid repatriating income (and paying US taxes) when they needed cash. It’s no longer allowed under new Treasury rules issued last month. Those tax advantages might be gone, but Medtronic wants the deal anyway and sought external financing.
But the Salix Deal is off. The North Carolina pharmaceutical was going to buy Cosmo, an Italian drug maker, but “the changed political environment has created more uncertainty regarding the potential benefits we expected to achieve,” said its chief executive Carolyn Logan. Maybe Treasury’s anti-inversion rules will make inversions less attractive to companies. TPC’s Steve Rosenthal notes that “the question is, how many.”
Will corporate tax reform deal with business income on individual returns? It should. Nine out of ten businesses do not pay corporate income tax. Their profits go to their owners, who claim their income on individual returns. That’s about $840 billion in income, according to new research from TPC’s Joe Rosenberg. Of that, notes TPC’s Howard Gleckman, $535 billion comes from net partnership and S corp income, almost all of which comes from real businesses—the ones that could have organized as C corporations but whose owners chose to report their income on their 1040s to avoid a separate layer of corporate income tax.
Tax-free political giving: Will the rules ever be more consistent? Disclosure matters when it comes to political donations made by nonprofit tax-exempt organizations. In this year’s mid-term House and Senate elections, undisclosed political contributions could top $730 million. TPC’s Howard Gleckman reviews two ideas: Food for thought amid the onslaught of campaign ads this fall. Either could end the use of tax-exempt organizations as political money launderers. Catholic University’s Roger Colinvaux recommends uniform disclosure of all political giving, whether through a nonprofit or a political organization. But Bertram Levine of Rutgers University and Colgate University’s Michael Johnston would make it a crime for a political contributor to disclose its campaign gift. The theory: You can’t buy a lawmaker if he doesn’t know you are purchasing.
There’s a better way to budget for federal lending. TPC’s Donald Marron argues that the CBO’s two methods of accounting for federal lending programs create a big gap in understanding the fiscal impact of federal loans. Compare the financial returns of lending with doing nothing: That yields an estimated a $212 billion boon to taxpayers over the next decade. Or, compare the returns with taking similar risks and being fully compensated: That costs taxpayers an estimated $120 billion over ten years. Marron argues that CBO could close that $300 billion gap by accounting for financial returns born over time—an “expected-returns approach”—rather than collapsing them into a single value at the time the loan is made.
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