* Senate Democrat Wyden favors lower corporate tax rate
* House Democrat Levin says met with Medtronic, Covidien
* Levin: inquiry by Congress into tax inversions needed
(Adds Sander Levin statement, paragraphs 13-14)
By Patrick Temple-West
WASHINGTON, June 17 The U.S. Senate's chief tax
law writer on Tuesday vowed to work on overhauling the federal
tax code by August 2015, citing a move by Medtronic Inc
to shift its tax home base to Ireland as a spur to congressional
Senator Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, said he wants to cut the corporate income tax rate to
24 percent from 35 percent, chiefly by eliminating loopholes.
Wyden has advocated this proposal for years. Multinational
companies have been clamoring for a tax cut.
The Oregon Democrat said there will be an opening for tax
reform between now and Congress' August 2015 break. After that,
lawmakers will be consumed by 2016 presidential
election-campaign politics, he said.
"There is a prime 15-month window from now until the August
recess of 2015," he said at a Wall Street Journal conference.
"We do need to go after some of these loopholes," Wyden
said. "You go in there, clean those out, and use the money to
hold down the rates."
Wyden is one of the few lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to
have a comprehensive plan for rewriting the tax code. He first
offered it as legislation in 2010. Congress has not thoroughly
recrafted the loophole-riddled tax code since 1986.
Republican Senator Dan Coats has worked closely with Wyden.
A spokeswoman for Coats told Reuters he "is in discussions with
Senator Wyden about updating and improving their proposal."
Tax reform efforts in both the Republican-controlled House
of Representatives and the Democrat-controlled Senate stalled
this year amid deep disagreement over tax and spending policies.
Efforts to rewrite the tax code may not gain traction next
year, either, said Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top
Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
"Possibility next year? I don't rank the possibility that
high," Van Hollen told reporters at an event.
But some lawmakers have refocused on this daunting project
because of a flurry of deals by major U.S. multinationals to
move their tax domiciles offshore.
Medical device maker Medtronic announced it has agreed to
buy Dublin-based Covidien Plc for $42.9 billion. As part
of the deal, known as an "inversion," Medtronic would shift its
tax home base to Ireland from Minnesota.
Representative Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House
of Representatives tax committee, said he met on Tuesday with
officials of both companies.
"Congress owes it to the American people to inquire
seriously into each and every acquisition, given the dramatic
increase in the number of corporate inversions in recent years,
while Congress undertakes ... tax reform on a truly bipartisan
basis," Levin said in a statement.
The Medtronic-Covidien transaction was the latest in a batch
of proposed inversion deals. Two earlier ones, pursued by U.S.
drugmaker Pfizer Inc and advertising company Omnicom
Group Inc, failed for non-tax-related reasons.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Kevin
Drawbaugh, Jan Paschal and Eric Walsh)