Icahn Wants to Help Tax Man Cut Some Lucrative Deals Quickly

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What Dangers Does Carl Icahn See Lurking in the Markets?
  • Billionaire proposes way to bring home $2 trillion held abroad
  • Activist calls carried-interest discount `ridiculous'

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn wants to help the Internal Revenue Service boost the U.S. Treasury’s coffers, fast.

The corporate raider-turned-activist called on U.S. lawmakers to urgently pass measures encouraging corporations to repatriate foreign profits “in the next few weeks before they recess, because if they don’t do it by December you won’t get it done” until after the 2016 election, Icahn said in an interview elaborating on a video he posted Tuesday.

Icahn proposed a tax of 7 percent to 15 percent to bring home the more than $2 trillion U.S. companies hold abroad -- a windfall for both the Treasury and businesses. More importantly, he said, it would help stem the flow of companies aggressively pursuing inversions -- deals that relocate corporate headquarters to lower-tax countries.

With comprehensive tax reform unlikely anytime soon “inversions could accelerate very meaningfully, and that is very dangerous for us,” Icahn said. “Many big companies in the next year or two are planning on moving out of this country.”

Affordable Reinvestment

U.S. multinationals have been lobbying for such a repatriation deal, arguing it would make reinvesting foreign profits here affordable. Inversions are a growing trend, with companies from medical-device maker Medtronic Plc to fast-food chain Burger King Worldwide Inc. reincorporating by acquiring an address in a lower-tax country. Burger King acquired Canada-based Tim Hortons and renamed itself Restaurant Brands International Inc., now based in Oakville, Ontario.

“I’ve already talked to people on this, I’ve been advocating for it” in Washington, Icahn said. “It’s insane almost not to do it. Get the $2 trillion back here to our economy, and lessen the real threat that a lot of companies will move out of this country.”

Icahn also calls “ridiculous” the carried-interest discount, where profits
earned by hedge fund and private-equity managers are taxed less than ordinary income rates.

“One obvious problem the government should have fixed a long time ago, is the carried-interest tax loophole,” Icahn said in the video. “People on Wall Street, they’re good friends of mine, I like them, but not having to pay full taxes on money that you’re earning is an absurdity.”

He blames politicians for failing to grasp the difference between investing other people’s money and risking your own capital.

“These guys that run this money don’t take any risk, they only make the profit -- OK, good for them -- they raised the money, they take a profit,” Icahn said. That doesn’t mean they should pay a lower rate than a regular person, he said.

“The middle class guy who’s making the $50,000 a year realizes, ‘I’m being taken advantage of.’ He can read, he can understand.”

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