Obama could curb corporate 'inversions' on his own: ex-U.S. official

Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:25am EDT
 
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By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama could act without congressional approval to limit a key incentive for U.S. corporations to move their tax domiciles abroad in so-called "inversion" deals, a former senior U.S. Treasury Department official said on Monday.

By invoking a 1969 tax law, Obama could bypass congressional gridlock and restrict foreign tax-domiciled U.S companies from using inter-company loans and interest deductions to cut their U.S. tax bills, said Stephen Shay, former deputy assistant Treasury secretary for international tax affairs in the Obama administration. He also served as international tax counsel at Treasury from 1982 to 1987 in the Reagan administration.

In an article being published on Monday in Tax Notes, a journal for tax lawyers and accountants, Shay said the federal government needs to move quickly to respond to a recent surge in inversion deals that threatens the U.S. corporate tax base.

"People should not dawdle," said Shay, now a professor at Harvard Law School, in an interview on Friday about his article.

If the administration were to take the steps he discusses, Shay said, some of the many inversion deals that are said to be in the works might be halted in their tracks.

The regulatory power conferred by the tax code section he has in mind, known as Section 385, is "extraordinarily broad" and would be a "slam dunk" for the Treasury Department, he said.

A recent sharp upswing in inversion deals is causing alarm in Washington, with Obama last week urging lawmakers to act soon on anti-inversion proposals from him and other Democrats. But Republican opposition has blocked Congress from moving ahead.

Meantime, investment bankers and tax lawyers are aggressively promoting inversion deals among corporate clients, with U.S. drugstore chain Walgreen Co one of several companies known to be evaluating such a transaction.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing