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Yellen Promotes OECD Agreement, Defends Treasury Budget Before Congress

Department of the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is continuing to promote the agreement on international taxes reached by most members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on a global corporate minimum tax, but acknowledged that its overall impact will be determined by the final details.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee at a June 7, 2022, hearing about the White House’s fiscal 2023 budget request, Secretary Yellen noted in her opening remarks that she is “keenly focused on moving forward on the global agreement on international tax reform, including a global minimum tax that will level the playing field and raise crucial revenues to benefit people around the world.”

However, she noted that because the specific details of how the international tax reforms will be defined and implemented, the impact on American businesses cannot be determined.

In response to a question as to whether the agency will provide Congress with the analysis of data currently available on whether the pillar one agreements will have a positive or negative impact, she said “that it could go either way, depending on the details which have not yet been decided. In the pillar one negotiations, the impact on fiscal revenues will be small.”

Yellen continued: “Pillar two has a big impact. Pillar one will have a small impact. We’re a very large market economy. We will gain revenue from our ability to tax foreign corporations that are doing business in the United States where we consume those services, we will lose some from revenue. Yet, it could be positive or negative, depending on details that have not yet been worked out. And that’s why we’ve not provided data. We will when those details are clear.”

That being said, Yellen also highlighted that countries will not be able to skirt the requirements of the treaty, responding to a question on whether China, a signee of the agreement, can be expected to comply with it when the nation has a questionable record complying with other international agreements.

Secretary Yellen testified that she expects China to comply with the terms of the agreement, but if it fails to do so, “this agreement contains an enforcement mechanism that will allow the United States or any other country that has adopted the global minimum tax to impose taxes on China’s companies that would be the same as if China had complied. So there is a tough enforcement mechanism in this deal.”

She also testified that Treasury will be negotiating on the details to ensure that business tax credits and subsidies will not negatively impact corporations once the international tax reforms are implemented.

Defending the Budget

During the hearing, she also addressed a number of issues that have become common themes among Biden Administration officials in recent months, including a recent focus on the tax gap and the disparities in auditing following a Government Accountability Office report that highlighted those concerns.

“Tackling that $600 billion annual tax gap is absolutely important in ensuring fiscal responsibility,” Yellen told members of the Senate Finance Committee in response to a comment that the White House is requesting $80 billion over 10 years to address this. “It would generate substantial revenue in a manner that’s efficient and fair. It would enable deficit reduction and help these price pressures by providing the funding a part of the funding we need for the urgent fiscal priorities.”

She reinforced a common call to better fund the Internal Revenue Service to make sure it has the proper personnel in place to do things such as conducting more complicated audits to ensure the top earners are paying their fair share of taxes, in addition to helping the IRS serve the overall population and update its information technology infrastructure.

“We absolutely have to invest in the IRS to close that tax gap, which reflects opaque sources of income, mainly by high income earners that are not taxed,” she said. “And they need the resources to serve taxpayers to be able to answer their phones to be able to ensure that they receive the payments that they are due, and they need to modernize their technology which is really the oldest dating back to the [19]60s in the federal government.”

Yellen also took the opportunity to encourage Congress to extend the child tax credit, noting that while it may have played a minor role in contributing to the inflation issues the nation is tackling, it has had a significant effect on helping to reduce childhood hunger.

“It enabled families to get a little bit of breathing room and to help their kids afford nutritious food and clothing and back to school supplies.” Yellen said.

She also mentioned during the Senate Finance Committee hearing that the Treasury Department is looking forward to working with Congress to get a tax deduction for union dues reinstated after it was cut in 2017.

A day later, on June 8, 2022, Secretary Yellen appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee in a hearing also advertised as a review of the White House budget but one that focused heavily on inflation, current energy policy, and international tax reform.

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