It’s a common complaint among American expatriates: no matter how far away you go, you can’t escape Uncle Sam’s taxes.
But that’s not the case with American corporations that move their putative “headquarters” overseas, as President Obama noted the other day:
In his toughest comments yet on the subject, he accused big US corporations of trying to play “the system” by “magically becoming Irish” through so-called tax inversion deals.
“I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong,” Mr Obama said. “It sticks you for the tab to make up for what they’re stashing offshore.”
There has been a raft of such deals in recent months which have seen big American companies become “Irish” for tax purposes through buying smaller firms registered here. The same trend is happening in the UK and Switzerland. Fears America is losing out on taxes have made the deals controversial.
It’s understandable if businesses have a different tax code that subjects them to different rules to a certain extent, though shady tax dodging is still an enormous moral and financial problem.
But the issue starts to become even more open and shut once we start claiming that corporations are people. If a corporation has “free speech rights” to buy elections, then it should be subject to American taxes even if it “moves” overseas just like actual American people are. If a corporation like Hobby Lobby has personal “religious rights” not to cover its employees’ contraception, then it’s enough of a person to pay expatriate taxes if it decides to move to Ireland.
It has to be one or the other. You can’t become a person when it’s convenient to your bottom line, but not when it isn’t.