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U.S. Treasury official urges Senate action on tax treaties

By Patrick Temple-West

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Treasury official on Thursday called on the Senate to ratify five tax treaties the United States has signed with other nations but that have languished without a vote since 2011.

Though tax treaties previously have routinely won Senate approval, they have recently fallen victim to partisan gridlock despite a corporate lobbying effort to get them ratified.

Treaties with Chile, Hungary, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are pending before the Senate, Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, told a conference.

The United States has tax treaties with more than 60 countries, ranging from China to Kyrgyzstan. Their main purpose is to prevent double-taxation of income and profits.

Mazur urged senators to vote on the pending treaties as a way to boost U.S. economic growth.

"The Senate has gone three years without ratifying any tax treaties," he said. "This backlog is really starting to cause problems. It makes it harder for us to negotiate subsequent ones when you already have a bunch in the queue."

The Treasury has negotiated treaties with Poland, Spain and Japan that it expects to send to the Senate soon, Mazur said.

The tax treaties have been prevented from coming to a vote in the Senate by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement.

Citing privacy concerns about Americans' tax data, Paul has single-handedly blocked Senate action on the treaties. Under Senate rules, one senator can prevent a motion from reaching a vote on the chamber's floor.

A spokeswoman for Paul could not be immediately reached on Thursday.

On the sidelines of the conference, Mazur declined to answer questions about Paul's hold on the treaties. "We keep pressing the committees, their relevant staff and members," Mazur said.

(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)

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