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No member of Congress has been more active in the cause of protecting tax cheaters and tax avoidance by our nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations than Sen.(now presidential candidate) Rand Paul.
While Paul is a standard bearer of anti-tax conservatives through his advocacy of radical policies such as the flat tax, his advocacy of tax avoidance and his lead role in blocking or even trying to repeal basic anti-tax-evasion measures makes him a radical outlier.
Tax Evasion and Avoidance
Most prominently, Sen. Paul, for years, has single-handedly blocked ratification of a critical tax treaty with Switzerland that would allow the United States to go after the thousands of tax cheaters who hide their income in Swiss bank accounts to evade taxes. In addition, Sen. Paul has been a leader in the movement to repeal the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), vital law enforcement legislation that helps tax authorities collect information on offshore bank accounts. In both cases, the beneficiaries of his policies are tax evaders and the losers are honest taxpayers who are forced to pick up the tab for the billions lost each year to tax evasion.
Another critical component of Sen. Paul’s pro-tax evasion agenda has been his long time assault on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Like fellow presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Paul has recklessly called for the abolition of the IRS without explaining how the government would function without any sort of revenue collection agency akin to the IRS. While this kind of rhetoric is largely blather, it has real world consequences. Sen. Paul’s language has led directly to the deep and devastating cuts to the IRS in recent years that have hamstrung the agency’s ability to go after tax evaders and perform basic functions.
On the issue of corporate tax avoidance, Sen. Paul has been a prominent advocate for the aggressive use of loopholes by our nation’s largest corporations. During the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation’s infamous hearing on Apple’s avoidance of tens of billions of dollars in taxes using Ireland subsidiaries and accounting gimmicks, Sen. Paul sided with Apple, saying that the Senate should apologize to the company and that discussions of tax reform should not include examining specific tax avoidance practices of companies.
Taking this to the next level, Sen. Paul wants to reward offshore tax avoidance through a repatriation holiday. This would give an enormous tax break to the worst tax avoiders, including Apple and dozens of other companies, by allowing them to pay a 6.5 percent rather than 35 percent tax rate on their offshore profits upon repatriation. While proponents of a repatriation holiday, like Sen. Paul, argue that such a proposal could be used to pay for infrastructure, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that a holiday would lose $95 billion in revenue over ten years.
Tax Cuts for the Rich
Sen. Paul has also proposed changes that would increase taxes on the overwhelming majority of Americans, while at the same time providing massive tax breaks to the very wealthy. For instance, Sen. Paul has proposed the implementation of a flat tax, which would tax income at a single flat rate and entirely exempt capital gains, dividends and interest from taxation. A Citizens for Tax Justice analysis of a similar flat tax proposal found that it would increase taxes on the bottom 95 percent of Americans by almost $3,000 on average and at the same time give the richest 1 percent of Americans an average tax cut of nearly $210,000.
This stark unfairness should be no surprise. In fact, the authors of the “Flat Tax” endorsed by Sen. Paul had this to say about their proposal in their 1983 book: It “will be a tremendous boon to the economic elite,” they admitted. And they also added, “Now for some bad news. . . . It is an obvious mathematical law that lower taxes on the successful will have to be made up by higher taxes on average people.”
Besides advocating for a regressive flat tax, Sen. Paul has indicated that he will soon “propose the largest tax cut in American history.” What’s striking about this is that any tax cut, let alone an extremely large one, is out of touch with the dire fiscal realities our nation is facing. Even the most recent budget proposal by the House Republicans, which includes trillions in draconian and infeasible cuts to critical public programs, assumes that revenue levels need to stay at the already low level of current policy.
While Sen. Paul has a reputation as a maverick on many issues, when it comes to tax issues, he adheres to the worst excesses of the anti-tax, anti-middle-class conservative movement.