Sen. Paul: Give Caterpillar award for Swiss tax strategy

WASHINGTON – Caterpillar Inc. executives defended a tax strategy Tuesday that has saved the manufacturing giant billions in U.S. taxes. They got support from Republican senators, including one who said the company deserves an award.

Caterpillar has avoided paying $2.4 billion in U.S. taxes since 2000 by shifting profits to a wholly-controlled affiliate in Switzerland, according to a report released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Levin chairs the Senate investigations subcommittee. On Tuesday, Levin grilled Caterpillar executives and their accountants at a hearing on the company’s tax strategy.

“Caterpillar is an American success story that produces iconic industrial machines,” Levin said. “But it is also a member of the corporate profit-shifting club that has transferred billions of dollars offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.”

Julie Lagacy, a Caterpillar vice president, was adamant that the Peoria, Ill.-based manufacturer follows all tax laws.

“We pay everything we owe,” she told the subcommittee.

Caterpillar got support from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who questioned why the subcommittee was even holding the hearing.

“I think rather than having an inquisition, we should probably bring Caterpillar here and give them an award,” Paul said. “You know, they’ve been in business for over 100 years. It’s not easy to stay in business.”