Demand a Fair Tax Code

By Susan Harley

It’s clear nothing’s the same anymore. The global coronavirus pandemic has altered everything about modern life– the ways we work, the ways we socialize, and even the ways we grieve for those who have been lost during these incredibly difficult times. It’s as yet unclear as to when (or maybe even whether) things will return to how they used to be before the epidemic.

So, it’s unsurprising that taxes have also changed during these times. Starting with the most basic:  April 15 traditionally has marked Tax Day in the United States, the date by which most tax filers must submit their tax returns. However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the due date was moved to July 15, 2020.

In addition to delaying Tax Day because of the coronavirus, some important changes were made directly to the tax code as part of relief packages that have been passed, in particular, the CARES Act. Newly released information show that one of the tax provisions on excess business losses actually overwhelming helps millionaires. It is an understatement to say the least that this is NOT the group of Americans who need help right now. The problematic loss-related tax provisions of the CARES Act temporarily rolled back meager protections that had been put in place as part of the otherwise awful 2017 tax giveaway law—limits that were seen as part of the trade for the huge tax breaks that were doled out to the rich and corporations.

Public Citizen has been working with allies to call for future COVID-19 funding packages to remove these provisions that benefit the wealthy and give overly generous handouts to corporations. Others like Vice President Biden are also calling for an end to these harmful giveaways, and to put the focus back on everyday Americans like those saddled with student debt. We are also advocating for polices to ensure corporations are not profiteering during this epidemic. And, we are advocating for companies that receive bailout funds to disclose financial information such as their tax payments, on a country-by-country basis.

While the COVID-19 outbreak has meant a necessary change in the way members of Congress have approached the price tag for huge social investments, this will not always be the case. Public Citizen completely agrees that now is not the time to quibble about cost, and instead have been supportive of efforts to provide immediate stimulus relief to hurting families and struggling businesses. However, the day will come when our nation must face the shortfalls of government revenues that will undoubtedly lead to calls for cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition benefits—considering this has been the much-repeated refrain parroted by conservatives. This pandemic has illustrated the very real connection between economic disparities and unequal health outcomes, particularly for communities of color. It will be more essential than ever for our nation to take a hard look at our tax system and decide what a fair tax code should look like.

Some polices Public Citizen plans to push hard for after the US comes out of this current emergency will be things like an additional tax that applies only to the income of millionaires, requiring corporations to pay more of their fair share—especially multinational corporations that are overly adept at using accounting gimmicks and tax havens to escape paying taxes in the US, and taxing Wall Street trades as a way to tamp down speculative and high-frequency trading that exacerbates (and profits off of!) volatility in trading markets—an effect that has been proven again and again during this crisis.

As we all rally together, while apart, to defeat the invisible enemy of a virus that has shaken all of our worlds to the core, we at Public Citizen call on all Americans to join the fight to unrig our tax code so that in the future we can have a well-funded government that invests in communities so that everyone has quality healthcare and excellent educational opportunities and that no one goes hungry. This means corporations and the wealthy must pull more of their weight as we all contribute to recovery efforts.

And, if you’re active on social media, we invite you to join the chorus of concerned Americans urging Congress to roll back harmful tax cuts included in previous coronavirus stimulus funding and keep at bay other tax cuts that would benefit those who need it least—like corporate CEOs who wine and dine clients. On April 15, what traditionally would have been Tax Day, at 2pm Eastern there will be a Twitter action using the hashtags #PeopleOverProfits and #IDemandAFairTaxCode.

We’re all in this together! And that includes ensuring tax code where everyone pays their fair share like profitable corporations and millionaires.