Group: Corporate loopholes cost Va. millions in taxes

Posted: February 15, 2013

The Winchester Star

Mike Wallace (left), field organizer with Virginia Fair Share; Cynthia Sebian-Lander, project organizer with Virginia Organizing; and Evan Clark, a Winchester councilman, were at the corner of Handley Boulevard and Braddock Street on Wednesday to call attention to the public and their lawmakers about the Fair Share's campaign to “put America back to work.” (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Mike Wallace (left), Evan Clark and Cynthia Sebian-Lander stand in front of Handley High School on Braddock Street Wednesday to lobby for closing corporate tax loopholes. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Groups in the state that bill themselves as grassroots organizations say that if the federal government closed loopholes that help large corporations avoid paying higher tax rates, Virginia could see in excess of $500 million more in tax revenue annually.

Mike Wallace, an organizer with Fair Share Virginia — an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based national economic advocacy organization Fair Share Alliance — said Thursday that corporate tax loopholes cost the state and federal governments billions annually.

“In Virginia we lose $589 million just for corporate tax havens,” Wallace said during a small event at the corner of Handley Boulevard and Braddock Street. “That’s where corporations send their money to offshore bank accounts to skirt U.S. taxes.

“There’s a lot of national focus on the budget debates and the budget crisis between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but we believe that closing corporate tax loopholes is something that both sides can agree on.”

Wallace works to organize support for closing corporate tax loopholes in the 10th Congressional District, represented by Republican Frank Wolf.

“We’re calling on Rep. Frank Wolf, we have hundreds of citizens and local leaders that are putting Frank Wolf on notice,” Wallace said. “We want to stop seeing corporations get a free ride while the rest of us have to pay the fare.”

Evan Clark, who represents Winchester’s 2nd Ward on the City Council, said that corporations like General Electric are able to get out of paying taxes because of loopholes and lobbying efforts.

“They have tax accountants, they have lawyers and then they have lobbyists who lobby the politicians to tailor the tax code and the laws such that they don’t have to pay taxes,” said Clark, who attended Thursday’s event. “GE hasn’t paid taxes in over a dozen years. Exxon Mobil [was] the most profitable company in the country last year, and yet they get subsidies from you and me to help them drill for oil.”

Cynthia Sebian-Lander is an organizer with the Charlottesville-based social advocacy group Virginia Organizing. She said Thursday that her organization wants the government to close corporate tax loopholes to avoid cutting social programs that middle class and low-income citizens need such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Clark said that while the federal budget and tax code are large and complicated, decisions at the federal level still have an impact on Winchester.

“This has got to be one of the easiest, most bipartisan things that everybody should agree on in terms of fairness and equity that we can all come together and try to fix part of the budget problem,” Clark said of closing corporate tax loopholes.

“To me it’s offensive that these large corporations would get special treatment and not have the same responsibility that you and I have to pay our fair share.”

In a phone interview Friday, Wolf said that everything needs to be on the table when it comes to budget issues but that just closing corporate tax loopholes won’t solve any problems.

He added that he supports the Simpson-Bowles plan to help address budget and tax issues and that he believes there needs to be a “grand bargain” to solve the country’s financial problems.

Additional information on closing corporate tax loopholes is available by contacting Wallace at either 703-651-6058 or mwallace@fairshareonline.org. The organization’s website is online at fairshareonline.org.

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com