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Corporate tax issues examined at inaugural tax policy lecture

Lee-Ford Tritt and Patrick Duffey

Jane Gravelle discusses corporate tax issues at the inaugural tax policy lecture Friday, Nov. 12. (Photo by Vincent Massaro)

By Matt Walker
Senior Writer

During the inaugural Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture at the University of Florida Levin College of Law on Friday, Nov. 12, guest speaker Jane Gravelle was quick to point out that she wasn't talking about lunch when she discussed Google's recent "Double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich."

The terms refer to strategies that the large corporation recently used to avoid the United States' 35 percent corporate income tax, said Gravelle, senior specialist in economic policy in the Government and Finance Division of the Congressional Research Service. Instead, they moved profits through Irish and Dutch companies and they eventually settled in Bermuda where Google paid a much lower 2.4 percent corporate income tax.

Gravelle focused on Google's recent headlines to illustrate current tax policy issues strategists are dealing with in her lecture titled "The Corporate Income Tax — A Persistent Policy Challenge."

"This is what we face today with the corporate tax is these tax schemes that exploit our laws and other countries' laws in order to essentially avoid tax on their income," Gravelle said. "So that has made the international issue a very important part of corporate tax policy right now."

"Do we make the issue international corporate tax policy?" Gravelle asked. "And does that dominate all the decisions we make, or can we still think as an independent country about our corporate tax and its implications for the domestic economy?"

Gravelle also went on to present the origins and evolution of corporate tax in the United States from its inception in 1909 up to the present day.

Gravelle was the first lecturer to participate in the new lecture series at UF Law.

"It's a most auspicious beginning for this incredibly important tax policy lecture series to have a speaker of this stature, experience and wisdom of Jane Gravelle," said Michael Friel, associate dean and director of the Graduate Tax Program at UF Law. "Her work has been extraordinarily influential and important in the economics of taxation with focus on tax policy, economic growth and resource allocation."

The Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture Series is an endowed lecture series that examines tax policy and how its implementation affects the economy and people's lives. Gelberg, who holds a J.D. and LL.M. in taxation from UF Law, established the lecture series to bring distinguished lecturers to the college each year to speak on tax policy topics to students and faculty, and provide a special opportunity for reflection on the policies supporting the U.S. tax structure.

"The series is designed to enhance awareness of tax policy issues and encourage you — our students — to make the examination and advancement of tax policy a central part of your careers, thereby improving the tax code and making it more reflective of the financial concerns of all Americans," said UF Law Dean Robert Jerry.

Gelberg is a practicing tax attorney and partner in the firm of Lamont Neiman Interian & Bellet, P.S., which has offices in Miami and Boca Raton. She is the co-chairperson of the South Florida Tax Litigation Association and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

The lecture is available as an archived webcast and can be viewed here.