U.S. corporate tax code high, complex

You’ve heard it said many times that some of the worst assaults on public welfare and the national interest are not the actions that are illegal but those that, while odious, are strictly legal.

Not many years go by without some additional support for that sad truth. Now we have more — the stunning success of Apple, perhaps the most admired American corporation, in avoiding a tax sum calculated in one account as roughly 30 percent of what it owed this country on its vast profits.

How did Apple do it? Easy.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, was anything but apologetic about his company’s tax avoidance in an appearance before Congress this week. Apple, he pointed out, paid $6 billion in U.S. taxes last year and expects to pay more next year. And the tactics taken to shelter profits, he said, were necessary steps to protect the interests of Apple shareholders.

The real problem, Cook said, is the relatively high U.S. corporate tax rate and an onerously complex tax code. The tax code is admittedly a nightmare. And we can argue about whether the corporate rate’s too high.

But one thing that’s indisputable is that almost no big business pays the full corporate tariff. Why else do you think their lobbyists are millionaires?

Cook endorsed the idea of tax reform even though he said it would raise Apple’s tax tab, which was mighty nice of him, considering giants such as Apple will likely dominate any new tax debate that involves our money-hungry federal legislators.

How can we know that? Because we did it once before, in the 1980s. Give us lower rates, the corporate world promised, and we’ll accept elimination of loopholes. Sounded good. And for a time it was. But, alas, over the long haul, many of the loopholes crept back in — lobbyists again — but the rates never went back to where they’d been.

– The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.

Posted on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm