The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee reaffirmed yesterday a commitment to repeal or to restrict the controversial corporate tax leasing provisions of the 1981 tax bill as another profitable firm, International Paper, disclosed that it sold tax breaks last year for well over $100 million.
Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), angered over reports that General Electric was effectively able to wipe out its 1981 tax liability and collect a net refund of $90 million to $100 million, said:
"I am afraid the General Electric windfall is only the tip of the leasing iceberg. Undoubtedly, as annual reports are made public, many other leasing bonanzas will come bobbing to the surface. In my view, Congress has a responsibility to terminate this form of corporate welfare."
International Paper, in its annual report, disclosed that it sold tax benefits on $548 million in property, plant and equipment in December 1981.
The firm, which had net earnings of $525 million but got a federal income tax refund of $43.1 million, sold the tax benefits for what appears to be about $130 million, although that figure is below what many persons in the business say have been market prices, and it may be that the firm will get additional money in the future.
International Paper's net earnings were up sharply from $314 million in 1980, but most of this resulted from the sale of a subsidiary, Canadian International Paper. Earnings excluding the sale were $330.5 million.
Dole's comments were prompted by reports that General Electric used the tax "leasing" provisions to reduce its 1981 tax libility to between $50 million and $60 million, while collecting a refund of $150 million, or more, for a net gain of about $100 million.
Referring to a commitment made in Kansas to repeal or to modify the law, Dole said: "The disturbing General Electric tax bonus convinces me more than ever that my Wichita announcement was both proper and necessary. I intend to stick with the Feb. 19 effective date."
The 1981 tax bill allowed corporations to sell tax credits and depreciation writeoffs through paper transactions called "leases," although the only assets transferred in the deals are tax benefits.