Congress Can Make Apple Pay Any Taxes It Wants To

| Tue May 21, 2013 12:17 PM EDT

Sen. Rand Paul, obviously trying to follow up on the roaring success of his "Stand With Rand" filibuster, decided to go all #slatepitchy yesterday during hearings that revealed the stupendous extent of Apple's tax avoidance strategies:

I am offended by the tone and tenor of this hearing. I am offended by a $4 trillion government bullying, berating and badgering one of America's greatest success stories.

....I am offended by the spectacle of dragging in here executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal. If anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress.

I frankly think the Committee should apologize to Apple. I frankly think Congress should be on trial here for creating a bizarre and byzantine tax code that runs into the tens of thousands of pages, for creating a tax code that simply doesn't compete with the rest of the world.

I'm amused that a congressional investigation becomes "bullying, berating and badgering" when the topic happens to be taxes, but I'll allow Paul his histrionics. Because, roughly speaking, he's right. Congress sets the rules, and if they want to make sure Apple pays its taxes, all they have to do is write laws that require it.

That said, Paul's outrage is more than a little hard to take here since it's people like him that have been so successful at preventing Congress from writing a decent corporate tax code in the first place. His only concern is slashing taxes, not rationalizing them, and if someone introduced a bill to make Apple pay its fair share into the voracious federal maw, Paul would undoubtedly be grandstanding yet again with another filibuster. He doesn't really deserve to be taken very seriously on this subject.

Still, it's true that, in theory, Congress can address this anytime it wants. They set the rules, and they don't really have much standing to complain when companies exploit those rules to pay as little in taxes as possible. After all, what do you expect them to do?

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