First Person

A break-up letter to the leaders of Congress

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Allowing companies to hide their profits denies poor communities basic services like water.

Leaders of the House: We need to talk

Rebecca Gilbert is a campaign coordinator in Oxfam’s office in Washington, DC.

Dear Congressional Leadership,

We need to talk. As I walk down the street on my way to work in my Nike Flyknit running shoes, I often check the latest political news via an app on my iPhone 8, Apple air buds planted in my ears. That was before I heard the news. This weekend’s release of leaked documents revealing extensive offshore tax haven abuse by individuals and especially large US companies has made me reevaluate my reliance on their products. It’s making me second guess what I thought was a trusting relationship.

How could they do this to me? The recent disclosures by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have shed light on the trillions of dollars that pass through offshore tax havens and reveal the ugly reality of our tax system. It allows rich companies to play by their own set of rules, while people like me are forced to pick up the tab. I thought we had open communication and transparency. I thought what we had was real.

It’s in your hands to fix this but it looks like you are about to make a big mistake that takes us in the wrong direction. As the leaders of our US Congress, I think you are failing the American people because you are being dishonest with us.  The top 50 US companies are stashing $1.6 trillion in tax havens on far off islands I could only dream of visiting, rather than paying taxes where their businesses are located. Instead, these profits should be taxed to help pay for our desperately needed infrastructure repairs and social services.  How can American truly lead without fixing our roads, schools, and hospitals?

There are two easy solutions for you to begin creating more financial transparency. There has already been legislation introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY), the Corporate Transparency Act, which aims to end the use of anonymous shell companies used to finance illegal activity to crack down on sneaky tax avoidance practices.  Further, the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) plans to limit the ways corporations can play the tax system by closing loopholes and removing incentives for money to be shifted offshore. It will require annual country-by-country reporting for each tax jurisdiction where multinational corporations do business, so they will no longer be able to escape Congressional oversight.

But first, an immediate investigation into these shady tax practices revealed by these leaks is essential. It is unfair to Americans to have our country’s tax code written by tax dodgers that are rigging the system to promote their own interests. They need to be truthful in the way they conduct business.

I shouldn’t even have to write this letter. The only reason this information had to be “leaked” in the first place is because of the secrecy and loopholes existing in our current tax code. This is why legislation like the Corporate Transparency Act and the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act must be passed right away. These bills would require greater tax transparency so that we no longer need big data leaks like the Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers to show the reality of our rigged tax system. If you were doing your job by representing the interests of the middle class and poor communities, this type of leak would not need to happen. I just want things to go back to the way they used to be, where you acted to benefit the people you represent.

All of the reasons above are why we need to call it quits on this bad tax plan. It’s not me, it’s you.

Tell your Member of Congress that you don’t support a tax plan that cuts essential programs for the poor while proving tax breaks to the rich.

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