The Corner

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden and Janet Yellen Have No Authority Over Federal Tax Rates

(mj0007/Getty Images)

I’m just bookmarking this story for the future:

​​The world’s largest economies agreed Thursday to sweeping changes to the global tax system, despite staunch opposition from low-tax regimes like Barbados, Ireland and Hungary.

​​Four officials at the talks told POLITICO that 130 countries had signed up to the deal, which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development announced soon after. The initiative aims to introduce a global tax for the world’s 100 biggest companies and set an international minimum effective corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent. Nine countries, mostly offering low corporate tax regimes, opposed setting the minimum rate, the people added, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

​​All G20 countries, including the U.S., China and France, backed the deal, and their finance ministers are scheduled to approve the agreement on July 9. Many of the details within the deal, such as possible exemptions for the financial industry and manufacturing, have also been left out of the current pact and will now be hammered out by October.

Just so we are clear: This agreement is entirely meaningless within the American framework of government, and it should be regarded as such. It is not a treaty. It is not a law. It is not a “commitment” that the United States has any obligation whatsoever to honor. In no way has the “U.S.” “backed the deal.” Under our Constitution, Congress sets the tax rates, and it may do so without reference to the president, the secretary of the Treasury, or the government of any other country. If, in years to come, a subsequent Congress decides that the corporate tax rate should be lower than 15 percent, it will be entirely within its authority to follow through on that decision without a second thought. If it does, we should not expect to be told that the U.S. is “breaking international law” or “disrespecting our foreign partners” or breaking a “de facto legal accord” or “retreating from an agreement.” It will not be.

As the head of the executive branch, Joe Biden has no power to bind the United States to anything in this area, nor to tie the hands of future American legislatures, and, whatever he may say aloud, he has not done so here. If, in years to come, other nations are disappointed by a change in American policy, it will not be the fault of the legislators who orchestrated that change, but of Joe Biden and his predecessor, both of whom have worked to make promises on behalf of their country that they have no right whatsoever to have made.

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