Republican Senator Rand Paul on Wednesday again blocked the U.S. Senate from moving toward ratifying five pending tax treaties, saying they would make it easier for foreign governments to invade the privacy of Americans.
The Kentucky libertarian, defying business interests that favor the agreements, cited concerns the treaties would allow more inter-government sharing of financial information on citizens.
The United States has tax treaties with more than 60 countries, ranging from China to Kyrgyzstan. Their main purpose is to prevent double-taxation of corporate profits.
No new tax treaties or treaty updates have been approved by the Senate since 2010, when Paul was first elected on a wave of support from supporters of the Tea Party movement. Before Paul's election, tax treaties were routinely approved by the Senate.
Under the new treaties, foreign governments intent on combating tax avoidance could too easily access Americans' personal tax information, Paul said.
"We can't forget about the innocent Americans who are not breaking the law and do have a right to privacy," Paul said, adding that he wants the treaties rewritten to eliminate information-sharing provisions.
Under Senate rules, one senator can place a "hold" on a motion for a vote, preventing it from reaching the Senate floor.
Earlier this year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the five tax treaties with Chile, Hungary, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Senate approval is needed for them to take effect.
Business lobbyists said on Wednesday that Senate Democrats likely would continue to bring up the tax treaties for debate to draw attention to Paul's objections.
In debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin said food-maker McCormick & Co Inc has been hurt by the Senate's inaction on the treaties.
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