WASHINGTON—President Biden’s proposed 15% minimum tax on profitable corporations would affect far fewer companies than the version he campaigned on, according to details released Wednesday by the Treasury Department.
The tax—aimed at companies that report large profits to investors but low tax payments—would apply only to companies with income exceeding $2 billion, up from the $100 million threshold used during the campaign. The Biden plan would now also let companies subject to the tax get the benefit for tax credits for research, renewable energy and low-income housing.
The result is that just 180 companies would even meet the income threshold and just 45 would pay the tax, according to administration estimates that assume the rest of the administration’s plan gets implemented. Nearly U.S.-listed 1,100 companies would meet the $100 million threshold, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The tax “is a targeted approach to ensure that the most aggressive tax avoiders are forced to bear meaningful tax liabilities,” the Treasury Department said in a new report.
The Treasury report outlines the arguments for the administration’s broader corporate tax agenda, which would raise more than $2 trillion over 15 years to pay for eight years of spending on roads, bridges, transit, broadband and other infrastructure projects.
That plan includes raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and changing several key features of the 2017 tax law.
Business groups object to the changes, contending that they would hurt investment and U.S. companies’ ability to compete for global business. The Treasury report contends that the 2017 tax cuts went too far and generated little economic benefit, pointing out that foreign investors received a significant share of any gains.
“It changes the game we play,” Treasury Secretary
said of the tax plan. “America will compete on our ability to produce talented workers, cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art infrastructure, not on whether we have lower tax rates than Bermuda or Switzerland.”
Ms. Yellen said the revenue generated from the tax changes would pay for investments that, by 2024, will add an extra 1.6% to the level of U.S. gross domestic product.
The administration also wants to impose a 21% minimum tax on U.S. companies’ foreign income and get other countries to do the same thing. To prod other countries to adopt such taxes, the new plan includes tough limits on deductions for foreign-headquartered companies from countries that don’t adopt them.
All of that is separate from the 15% minimum tax on U.S. companies’ financial-statement income.
The minimum tax on financial-statement income is a powerful political talking point, but the latest changes diminish its role in the Biden plan to more of a backstop than a key feature. Tax lawyers and accountants have argued that such a tax may be difficult to administer and implement and would cede some U.S. tax rules to accounting regulators.
(More to Come)
—Theo Francis contributed to this article.
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