House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) yesterday introduced his own version of President Carter's new "windfall profits" tax proposal-the first step before beginning formal hearings on the measure next Wednesday.
The proposal is exactly the same as Carter's except for a technical, but potentially significant, change in the way the government would tax oil that is sold above the price levels charged by the major oil-producing nations as of last January.
Ullman said the administration estimated that the measure would raise the federal taxes the oil companies have to pay by $500 million in 1980, $1.5 billion in 1981 and $1.7 billion in 1982. He called for "expeditious action" on the proposal.
The change Ullman proposed would alter Carter's plan to apply a so-called "tier three" tax to oil selling above $16 a barrel, the OPEC price of last January, before imposition of extra surcharges. The tax applies to stripper oil, newly discovered oil and other categories.
Ullman's bill would set that limit at a variable range of $14 to $18 a barrel, to account for differences in pricing of various quality oil The Ways and Means chairman had no new revenue estimates, but sources said the shift could bring in some higher taxes.
In introducing the bill yesterday, Ullman made clear it was simply "the starting point" for the Ways and Means action, and he was "by no means committed" to the details of the administration's plan. He said he would "look carefully" at profit data before deciding whether to stiffen the tax.
Early introduction of the measure appeared to underscore propects for prompt approval of the "windfall profits" tax proposal. Carter has said the tax is needed to prevent the oil companies from reaping excessive profits after he lifts oil-price controls.
Although no formal move is on yet, many members of the committee appear to favor stiffening the "windfall profits" tax proposal beyond what Carter has submitted, either because they believe it is too weak or want to boost their bargaining position with the Senate.
The administration has been angered by public reception of the "windfall profits" tax plan. Many law-makers have said it is milder than the president's rhetoric would have led them to believe. Carter has attacked the oil companies in speeches.
The Ullman legislation essentially follows Carter's proposal for an excise tax on oil compay revenues left after other taxes and deductions, reduced by a series of exemptions. The actual rate on the tax is 50 percent, although the effective tax rate is far lower.