President Carter called on the nation's large corporations yesterday to speed up withholding tax payments in an attempt to trim nearly $5 billion from the budget deficit in fiscal 1981.
Carter revealed the payment scheme as part of the $615.8 billion budget he sent to Congress. Without the faster tax payments, the proposed $15.8 billion deficit for fiscal 1981 would jump to $20.3 billion.
Under the Carter plan, many businesses will have to pay withholding taxes earlier -- erasing an opportunity for short-term investment of the funds. t
Just as banks have reduced the "float" time between the date when a check is written and finally cashed, Uncle Sam's financial people have been studying what the Office of Management and Budget calls "cash management."
Cash management initiatives are expected to increase federal receipts by $4.5 billion in fiscal 1981, $5.6 billion in 1982 and $2.2 billion in 1983.
Businesses will be affected primarily by two changes -- one requiring congressional sanction and one that can be accomplished by administrative action:
Earlier employer deposit of withheld income and payroll taxes and the employer share of payroll taxes -- This step, which does not require congressional action, affects large employers and will be phased in during calendar years 1981 and 1982. Small companies, on the other hand, will face less of a burden. About 550,000 of the smallest firms (quarterly withheld taxes of less than $1,000) will pay quarterly in the future while 980,000 employers with quarterly withheld taxes of $1,000 to $13,000 will make one deposit a month.
Increased estimated tax payments and modifications for estimated payments based on a prior year's liability -- Changes being sought, which require congressional approval, would increase to 85 percent from 80 percent the required level of estimated tax payments -- normally made in quarterly installments.Companies with calendar year accounting also would have to pay remaining liability in a single payment by March 15 (instead of two equal payments, March 15 and June 15, under current law).
OMB said the estimated corporate tax changes would be phased in during 1981 and 1982 and add some $1.4 billion to receipts in fiscal 1981. The earlier payment of withheld taxes would add $2.6 billion in fiscal 1981, OMB stated.
In addition to the quicker bite on corporate tax payments, the administration wants to speed up individuals' payments of estimated taxes -- which also would require congressional action.
For individuals, the government wants to boost to 85 percent from 80 percent the liabilities to be covered by quarterly estimated tax payments.
In addition, the administration is proposed acceleration of collecting customs duties and tobacco excise taxes from the large manufacturers, starting in 1981. Importers and brokers currently have 10 days to submit custom duties while tobacco taxes are due within 15 days after each semi-monthly collection period. Revised regulations will require tobacco payments within three days of a weekly collection period. A final decision on how to speed-up custom duties hasn't been made.
The largest new tax element in Carter's 1981 budget is the proposed tax on oil "windfall" profits, expected to bring in $20.9 billion during that fiscal year but to net only $13.9 billion after paying for programs to help the poor pay heating bills and to finance synthetic fuels research and other energy programs.
Once again, the administration is pushing for a ban on the use of tax-exempt bond financing for owner-occupied housing and a restriction that would allow such tax-exempt bonds for multifamily housing only where at least 20 percent of the residents qualify as low-income. Elimination of the tax-exemption status for interest on state and local securities, currently being debated on Capitol Hill, would boost federal revenues by $800 million in fiscal 1981.