* Levin circulates list of specific tax ideas to colleagues
* Automatic spending cuts will be 'disaster,' he says
By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, Jan 29 Senator Carl Levin for years
tried to close U.S. corporate tax loopholes but failed to
persuade many fellow Democrats. With an ax now looming over all
federal spending, the veteran Michigan lawmaker hopes to gain
Levin's committee on investigations has long used its
subpoena power to produce reports on corporate tax avoidance and
wrongdoing. His panel, which has oversight over government
operations, has no power to enact tax law, and neither
tax-writers nor Senate leadership have taken up his cause.
It may be an uphill climb for Levin's ideas to win passage,
given the lack of backing from Senate leadership and Max Baucus,
the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in the past. His
last plan for tightening the corporate tax regime would have
raised about $150 billion over 10 years.
Levin has previously sought to expand the Treasury
Department's power to battle tax haven banks and countries that
help the wealthy hide taxes, and to curb incentives for U.S.
companies to move jobs overseas and to transfer intellectual
A six-term senator better known as chairman of the Armed
Services Committee, Levin will again in coming weeks introduce
legislation to close tax loopholes. It will be part of an effort
to head off the sequester looming on March 1 when $85 billion in
indiscriminate spending cuts will be imposed across nearly all
"It is kind of gelling," Levin said in a hallway interview
on Tuesday. "I've circulated now to our chairmen in the caucus a
list that is very specific, a discrete list," of proposals on
corporate tax avoidance.
Levin says the threat of deep cuts to domestic and defense
spending could bring new converts.
"It would be a disaster," Levin said of the sequester's
impact. "It is mindless."
Many of Levin's ideas are expected to be reprised in
President Barack Obama's budget proposal, expected within weeks.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said
averting the sequester should include more targeted spending
cuts and new revenue.
Reid specifically mentioned oil companies, another Obama
target, but not one Levin has focused on.
The majority leader earlier this month introduced a
non-binding "Sense of the Senate," titled the End Wasteful Tax
Loopholes Act, which Levin signed onto.
The one-page document got little attention when introduced,
but it calls for cutting "wasteful tax loopholes that create
incentives for taxpayers to engage in transactions that have no
economic substance solely (in order) to lower tax bills."
Other provisions in Levin's last effort include establishing
a presumption that a corporation formed by a U.S. taxpayer is
considered under that taxpayer's control for tax purposes, and
disallowing companies from accounting for stock options in one
way to tax authorities and another way on their financial