Another Look at Tax Inversion Mergers

Burger King Worldwide Inc is in talks to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc, a deal that would be structured as a so-called tax inversion and move the hamburger seller’s base to Canada.

After all, Canada’s corporate tax rate is competitive even with Ireland’s 12.5% rate, at least from the lofty perspective of our own 35% top corporate rate: Canada’s rate is 15%. This inversion isn’t just the fiscally sound thing to do, it satisfies the company management’s fiduciary duty to control costs and maximize profits for the company’s owners.

BK isn’t alone in moving to Canada:

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc, which had been based in California, combined with Canada’s Biovail Corp in 2010 and redomiciled in Canada. The company now has a tax rate less than 5%.

And there are others.

Naturally, the Progressives in Congress and the White House—and no few captured Republicans—are demanding a stop to the inversions. Not in any sensible way, though. Treasury, for instance, is looking at a range of “options to deter or prevent” inversions.

No, BK’s pursuit of an inversion deal only illustrates the distorting, anti-competitive nature of our current tax code, and Treasury’s “options” will only make the thing worse. The right answer is to lower US corporate tax rates to competitive levels. When it becomes more attractive to be in the United States, to invest in the United States, to have a chance actually to turn a profit in the United States, not only will the BKs, the Valeants, and the AbbVies and Covidiens, et al., stay, foreign companies will look to come to the United States, bringing their ideas, their money, and their jobs here.

Even Canada, right next door (the convenience…), is becoming host to these things. But (even) Canada has been improving its tax structure for some years, lowering its corporate tax rate since 2005 from over 22% (still lower than the US’ then) to just 15%. Indeed, here’s a hint:

Tim Hortons [originally a Canadian company until its acquisition by Wendy’s] initially kept its headquarters in Delaware after it was spun off by Wendy’s in 2006. The chain moved back to Canada in 2009, shortly after the Conservative government in Canada lowered the nation’s corporate tax rate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *