The Democrats’ proposed 15% levy on the world-wide financial-accounting earnings of large, highly profitable companies may sound familiar. It was originally proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren during her bid for president. Democrats are pushing this tax again now, hoping it will encourage passage of a $1.85 billion reconciliation bill to fund President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
Any plan to tax financial-accounting earnings is ill-conceived, as I argued on these pages in May 2019. Blurring the lines between taxable income and financial-accounting profit would inevitably lead to political meddling in financial-accounting rules and damage the usefulness of financial accounting for investors.
Politicians and the FASB have vastly different objectives. Financial-accounting rules are created by the apolitical FASB to provide information useful to investors. In contrast, tax-accounting rules are largely determined by Congress to achieve such objectives as raising revenue, encouraging or discouraging certain behavior, and redistributing wealth. Two accounting systems are necessary, one for pursuing social objectives through the tax system, the other for giving investors comparable, reliable and timely information. The U.S. is not unique in this regard. Every developed country has a tax-accounting system that is separate from its financial-accounting system.
Because the objectives of the two systems are different, the income they compute is different.
If Congress wants to raise more revenue and prevent companies from reporting low tax rates, it should change the tax code.
Author(s): Scott Dyreng
Publication Date: 14 Nov 2021
Publication Site: Wall Street Journal