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When it comes to tax reform, former Virginia senator and Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb has publicly discussed conflicting views.
Webb has proposed taxing investment income at the same higher tax rate that applies to wages. He has also proposed ending offshore profit-shifting by multinational corporations by closing the “deferral” loophole. On the other hand, Webb suggests that the nation should consider “shifting our tax policies away from income and more toward consumption.” Such policies would be highly regressive.
Asked this week by a Tax Notes reporter, “Can a consumption-based national tax system be squared with wanting to shift more of the tax burden to investment income?” CTJ Director Bob McIntyre offered a one-word answer: “No.”
During his time as a senator, Webb advocated for ending deferral, the policy that allows multinational corporations to indefinitely defer paying taxes on their foreign income, which are often U.S. profits that have been shifted offshore for tax purposes. In a book laying out his policy vision, Webb attacked deferral, noting that it actually helps corporations move their operations overseas and is part of the reason why many Fortune 500 companies pay nothing in federal taxes. Webb is one of only a few senators, including Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have staked out such a strong position in favor of closing this egregious corporate tax loophole.
Webb has also been a consistent critic of the preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends. In 2012, he noted that this loophole is “the largest contributor to overall income inequality over the last decade.”
While Webb supports increasing the capital gains and dividends tax rate, he opposes increasing tax rates on ordinary income such as wages. He was one of only five Democrats to vote against legislation that would have repealed the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000. Webb reasoned that it would be preferable to raise the capital gains and dividend tax rates instead and to leave the Bush tax cuts on ordinary income in place.
Since he left the Senate, Webb has repeated these tax reform ideas, calling for an end to loopholes and exceptions that harm “economic fairness.”
But since beginning his campaign, Webb has taken a stark turn with his suggestion that we should move away from the progressive income tax and toward a regressive consumption tax. As is well known, such a tax change would be a huge boon to wealthy investors at the expense of working families. So where does Jim Webb stand these days when it comes to taxes? It’s very hard to say.