It appears the White House may have a serious new clash on its hands – but this hot spot is nowhere near the Middle East.
It’s right here at home. Major corporations are arming for a brawl concerning overseas tax breaks – and some pundits say it could be the year's biggest clash between business and the White House.
"We're going to spend whatever it takes," said Brigitte Schmidt Gwyn, senior director of congressional relations for the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of the nation's largest companies.
Obama last week announced a "Leveling the Playing Field" plan aimed at overseas tax shelters and other provisions that he calls loopholes for corporations. Combined with other international tax reforms planned by the administration, the crackdown would raise $210 billion over 10 years.
The most hotly contested issue is known as "deferral" — a provision in the existing tax law that allows companies to "defer" paying U.S. taxes on the profits they make from overseas investments until the money comes back home. Obama's plan would curtail deferral rules.
The tax fight pits Big Business against a popular president — at a time when the American public is still seething with anger over Wall Street bailouts, unemployment and the housing meltdown.
"He doesn't have to explain anything," said Bruce Josten, chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major opponent to Obama's tax proposal. "We have to explain."
Business and the administration have been working together on many issues, most notably health care reform. But the tax battle will be public and is likely to be messy.
"This really is the mother of all schisms between the business community and the administration," one top lobbyist said. "It also could create massive fractioning among the business community. You have one set of interests for a company that manufactures in the U.S. but sells around the world, another set for one that manufactures abroad."
And that leads to our reader’s poll. Do you support President Obama’s plan to “level the playing field?” Answer our poll above!
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CNBC.com with Reuters