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We're not broke: Tax Day and climate finance

Posted Apr. 17, 2012 / Posted by: Karen Orenstein

Throughout the world, concerned individuals, groups and governments have been racking their brains, trying to figure out how on earth they’re going to be able to afford the costs of the climate crisis, made even worse by a climate of fiscal austerity.

But part of the solution to finding the money may be right under our noses. How’s that? Well, today of all days is Tax Day in the United States. And wouldn’t it be something if multinational corporations actually paid their fair share of taxes? Then there’d be a lot more money to go around -- money urgently needed now to pay for essential public goods and services, like addressing climate change.

Take General Electric, for example.  GE is one of dozens of U.S. corporations that paid a negative federal income tax rate between 2008 and 2010. GE made more than $10 billion in profits -- yet was able to game the myriad loopholes and giveaways that exist in the U.S. tax system to pay no income taxes and even bank a hefty surplus from Uncle Sam. $10 billion – that’s as much money as the planet's rich countries jointly aimed to provide for the entire developing world in climate finance in 2011.

Cracking down on tax dodgers in the U.S. would make billions of dollars available for critical public needs, from environmental protection to education to public health. It would also allow the U.S. to provide more resources for international priorities. A slice of newly available tax revenue could go toward a fair U.S. contribution to international climate finance – funds to help developing countries to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and embark on clean energy development paths.

When the U.S. can generate tremendous revenue by mandating that GE and other corporations pay their fair share of taxes, it’s unconscionable that elected officials continue to put our vital social safety net on the chopping block. This should be a no-brainer.

That’s a major reason why Friends of the Earth and many others are supporting the Cut Unjustified Tax (CUT) Loopholes Act, S. 2075. Introduced by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), this legislation strikes at the heart of tax dodging and levels the playing field now stacked in favor of big corporations. It would help bring a sense of fairness back to the U.S. tax system and restore revenue that could be used to tackle critical global issues like climate change and poverty. It is expected to result in $155 billion in revenue over 10 years by closing U.S. tax loopholes exploited by multinational corporations and wealthy individuals.

We urge you to support the CUT Loopholes Act too, by asking your senator to co-sponsor this important bill. You can also learn more about the connection between stopping corporate tax abuse and funding climate solutions.

As the world’s largest economy and its largest historical climate polluter, the U.S. is both morally and legally obligated to help developing countries deal with the climate crisis, which is largely not of their making. It’s past time for GE and other corporate fat cats to come down from their mountains of money, stop gaming the system and start paying up, so that the U.S. can pay its fair share of international climate finance.

Stop corporate tax abuse - fund climate solutions and other public needs: The Cut Unjustified Tax Loopholes Act, S. 2075 (Factsheet)

Cracking down on corporate tax dodgers is key to coming up with the funds to pay for essential domestic and international public needs, including assistance for developing countries to address climate change.

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