Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told CNBC on Tuesday the U.S. needs to take action, including an overhaul of the "broken corporate tax code," to fix what's driving companies to seek shelter in overseas tax havens.
But during an interview at CNBC/Institutional Investor's Delivering Alpha conference, he acknowledged that the corporate tax overhaul "probably" won't happen during the remaining months of the Obama administration.
The European Commission ruling that Apple owes Ireland $14.6 billion in back taxes is inappropriate, said Lew, who stressed he has conveyed that message to European regulators.
"What I don't think is right is for tax authorities in other jurisdictions to reach into our tax base," he said.
In an editorial in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Lew criticized European Commission plans to "impose retroactive penalties" on U.S. corporations operating in Europe.
The commission's "actions also threaten to erode America's corporate tax base," he wrote. "U.S. companies could claim foreign tax credits against their U.S. tax bill for any tax-related payments to European Union member states."
In trying to reform U.S. corporate taxes to keep American companies from looking overseas, Lew told CNBC: "The principle that's driven our work on tax reform is that it has to be revenue neutral."