Oil Companies Targeted by Tax State Proposals

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The governors of both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have proposed new taxes for oil companies. Governor Rendell would subject oil companies' gross profits in his state to a 6.17 percent tax in lieu of the state's corporate income tax. Governor Doyle would tax oil companies' gross receipts at 2.5 percent. It remains to be seen whether state governments can really ensure that the tax will be paid by the oil company shareholders, as both governors claim, rather than being passed onto consumers.

Probably the most important step a state can take to ensure that oil companies (and other businesses) are paying their fair share is to adopt combined reporting of corporate income for tax purposes. This prevents companies from shifting costs and profits (on paper) between subsidiaries in different states to get the lowest tax bill possible. Fortunately for Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell's tax on oil companies would be calculated using combined reporting. Experts like University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Andrew Reschovsky have suggested that Wisconsin needs to move in this direction as well. Reschovsky told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In my view, if the governor wants to raise more money from oil companies, and other multinational companies, the most effective thing he could do would be to urge the Legislature to adopt combined reporting."

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