Obama: ‘Gaming the (Tax) System’

It’s a matter of “economic patriotism,” President Barack Obama says.

Targeting the tax “inversions” that have enabled American companies to merge with firms offshore and benefit from the lower tax rates of foreign countries, the president called for an end to the practice today in a campaign-styled appearance in California.

“What I’m saying is that companies thrive in the United States in part because they benefit from the best universities in the world, the best infrastructure,” he said in an interview aired by CNBC. It is “neither fair” nor “something that is going to be good for the country in the long-term,” the president said, for companies to change their mailing addresses “in order to avoid paying taxes.”

It is “gaming the system,” he said. “There are a lot of things that may be legal that probably aren’t the right thing to do for the country.”

Six years into office, Obama was asked, why hasn’t there been any corporate tax reform — when members of both parties want it.

“If we lower corporate tax rates and eliminate loopholes,” he said, companies will benefit. “The reason it’s not getting done right now is that, Congress, as you may have noticed, is not very productive.”

Invariably, he said, it takes a long time to enact a major tax overhaul. And his administration, he said, is ready to make a full-court press for overhaul of a system that enables someone who makes $1 billion a year to pay 15 percent in taxes while his secretary pays 22 percent.

“It isn’t fair,” he said.

 Obama, speaking at a technical college in Los Angeles today, called the companies avoiding taxation with mailbox moves “corporate deserters who renounce their citizenship to shield profits.” He called for a new “economic patriotism” — “You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers,” he told his audience.

 

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