WASHINGTON Republican and Democratic lawmakers vowed on Thursday to push for the ratification of eight tax treaties which have been held up for years because of one Republican senator's objections, despite support from companies that want consistency in rules for how to do international business.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky objects to the agreements for privacy reasons, saying they would allow more inter-governmental sharing of financial information on citizens.
Administration officials told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing that such concerns were misplaced.
"The treaties don't grant access to taxpayer records that are beyond what are provided in U.S. law," said Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
The United States has tax treaties with more than 60 countries. Their main purpose is to prevent double taxation of corporate profits. Companies support them because they want consistency and clear rules in their international business.
Thursday's hearing discussed tax treaties with Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hungary, Chile, Spain, Poland and Japan and the international convention on mutual assistance on tax matters.
Lawmakers questioned Barthold and Robert Stack, a Treasury Department deputy assistant secretary, about the treaties' effects, but said they would push to break the logjam.
"We'll do everything we can to expedite the consideration of the treaties," said Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who chaired the session.
A spokeswoman for Paul did not respond to a request for comment, but other Senate aides said they were not aware of any change in his position.
Paul, who is running for his party's nomination in the 2016 presidential election, delayed by several hours the chamber's vote on a major budget deal negotiated by congressional leaders and the White House, which he sees as doing too little to control spending.
No new tax treaties or treaty updates have been approved by the Senate since 2010, when Paul was first elected on a wave of support from supporters of the Tea Party movement. Before Paul's election, tax treaties were routinely approved by the Senate.
Under Senate rules, one senator can place a "hold" on a motion for a vote, preventing it from reaching the Senate floor.
(Corrects fourth paragraph to show that it is the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation)
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)