Reform the tax code and restore America’s ability to compete

For the last few weeks, the spirit of international competition has been on full display in Sochi, Russia. Hopes are high for Team USA, and regardless of the final medal count, America’s athletes were able to compete--and in many cases win--against the best the world has to offer. 

Sadly, the U.S. can no longer say the same about our nation’s ability to compete in today’s global economy. America’s economic standing—long the envy of the world—is being eroded by the highest corporate tax rate in the world and an unfair, inefficient and outdated tax code.

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The U.S. last updated its tax code in 1986. The bipartisan work and leadership by top officials in both parties, President Ronald Reagan and then-Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), simplified the code and lowered rates, setting the foundation for strong, sustained economic growth over the next two decades.  Yet, since 1986, the corporate tax rate has remained unchanged, except for a slight increase in the 1990’s. Meanwhile, the U.S. tax code has become riddled with tax exemptions and loopholes that have forced U.S. businesses of all sizes to focus on tax law and compliance rather than on bottom lines and job creation.

At the same time, nations around the world have filled this vacuum and created inviting tax environments by lowering their rates and simplifying their tax codes.  Countries including France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Japan, to name only a few, have recently reformed their tax codes making themselves more attractive for businesses and investment. Meanwhile, America continues to fall behind. 

As a result, U.S. businesses are operating at a competitive disadvantage on the world stage. News reports of companies once headquartered in the U.S. but now incorporating overseas have become all too routine. The consultancy Ernst & Young found that “trend of foreign multi-nationals looking to relocate continues apace.” When asked about his company’s move to Ireland from New Jersey, a CEO of a pharmaceutical company said that their reincorporation because of the high U.S. corporate tax rate “just makes economic sense” and that “other companies have to look” at making similar moves out of the U.S.

Lawmakers in Washington can continue to simply admire the problem, or take bold actions to remedy it. We believe they should choose the latter, and reform America’s tax code this year. 

Leaders in both parties agree on the importance of tax reform. President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees have each called for comprehensive reform that helps American businesses invest, create jobs and compete with international rivals.

Exasperation with gridlock in Washington is at its zenith. Voters are demanding that Washington set aside partisan bickering and achieve meaningful, bipartisan reforms on unaddressed issues. Comprehensive tax reform that lowers tax rates and simplifies the code for businesses of all sizes will be a shot in the arm for the U.S. economy and show that our elected officials can work together to fix challenges harming our nation’s ability to compete with countries around the world.

As we see in Sochi, Americans are up to the challenge of competition, if they have a fair shot. So here at home, it’s time to get to work. In order to create jobs, grow the economy and increase investment in America, our leaders should come together now and seize the moment to pass bipartisan tax reform. Our ability to compete for gold in the world economy depends on it.

Pinkerton and Kamarck are co-chairs of the Reforming America's Taxes Equitably (RATE) Coalition.

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