Baskets of Billions, Inversions and Revenues

Did banks help a hedge fund avoid $6.8 billion in US taxes? Yes, according to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs panel’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Its report, released in advance of this morning’s hearing, argues that “basket option structures” were designed to conceal two things: the true ownership of sets of assets; and the nature of those assets’ profits upon trade. The Subcommittee claims they were short-term gains, but profits were taxed at a lower long-term capital gains rate. Had the profits been taxed at the higher short-term rate, the US Treasury would have collected an additional $6.8 billion between 2000 and 2013.

Corporate inversions cut into state revenues, too. Jobs might not necessarily go overseas when a corporation completes an inversion, but a state’s tax base will shrink when a state’s formula to calculate its corporate income tax relies on the corporation’s total federal income. In the absence of corporate inversions, states would have received $73.1 billion in corporate income tax revenue between 2008 and 2012, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice. This morning’s Senate Finance Committee hearing will likely address inversions.

Ohio is rolling in online sales tax revenue. The state collected a record $45 million in the last fiscal year, up 68 percent from 2009. Ohio became a full member of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project in January. Its Department of Taxation estimates the state and local governments lose an estimated $350 million annually on untaxed sales by out-of-state vendors. The Senate may vote on the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act soon: It would blend measures that allow states to collect sales tax from online transactions and ban permanently state and local taxes on internet access.

State income taxes still don’t drive people out of state—even wealthy New Yorkers. According to the latest from New York City’s Independent Budget Office, the share of higher-income households that left the city in 2012 was the same as the share of lower-income households that left: 1.8 percent. Among households that earned more than $500,000, 42 percent moved out of the city, but remained in New York State.

Who likes a carbon tax? Maybe not the Australian government, but Americans do. That is, If the tax is earmarked. According to a new survey, 60 percent of Americans (or 70 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Republicans, and 54 percent of Independents) support a tax on carbon emissions if revenues fund research into renewable energy. The survey was conducted by Barry Rabe, of the Brookings Institution and University of Michigan, and Muhlenberg College’s Christopher Borick and the late David Amdur. Australia, which had such a levy, just repealed it.

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