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U.S. Opinions: Chicago

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Walgreens’ checkout?

From an editorial Tuesday in the Chicago Tribune:

The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill. Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.

A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.

If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

How many companies have to turn refugee before Congress and the White House stop their bipartisan talking – only talking – about the need to reform the federal tax code in general, and the corporate income tax in particular?

President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he supports business-tax reform in principle. In February, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., proposed a comprehensive tax reform plan that included slashing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Yet House and Senate leaders won’t take up controversial tax reform in an election year.

If Walgreen moves its headquarters for tax reasons, some of the loudest howls of criticism – who’ll be the first to scream “Walgreed!”? – will come from the very politicians who haven’t fixed our corporate tax code.

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