WASHINGTON — At the center of the new climate and tax package that Democrats appear to be on the verge of passing is one of the most significant changes to America’s tax code in decades: a new corporate minimum tax that could reshape how the federal government collects revenue and alter how the nation’s most profitable companies invest in their businesses.

The proposal is one of the last remaining tax increases in the package that Democrats are aiming to pass along party lines in coming days. After months of intraparty disagreement over whether to raise taxes on the wealthy or roll back some of the 2017 Republican tax cuts to fund their agenda, they have settled on a longstanding political ambition to ensure that large and profitable companies pay more than $0 in federal taxes.

To accomplish this, Democrats have recreated a policy that was last employed in the 1980s: trying to capture tax revenue from companies that report a profit to shareholders on their financial statements while bulking up on deductions to whittle down their tax bills.

The reemergence of the corporate minimum tax, which would apply to what is known as the “book income” that companies report on their financial statements, has prompted confusion and fierce lobbying resistance since it was announced last month.

Some initially conflated the measure with the 15% global minimum tax that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been pushing as part of an international tax deal. However, that is a separate proposal, which in the United States remains stalled in Congress, that would apply to the foreign earnings of American multinational companies.

Republicans have also misleadingly tried to seize on the tax increase as evidence that President Joe Biden was ready to break his campaign promises and raise taxes on middle-class workers. And manufacturers have warned that it would impose new costs at a time of rapid inflation.

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In a sign of the political power of lobbyists in Washington, by Thursday evening the new tax had already been watered down. At the urging of manufacturers, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona persuaded her Democratic colleagues to preserve a valuable deduction, known as bonus depreciation, that is associated with purchases of machinery and equipment.

The new 15% minimum tax would apply to corporations that report annual income of more than $1 billion to shareholders on their financial statements but use deductions, credits and other preferential tax treatments to reduce their effective tax rates well below the statutory 21%. It was originally projected to raise $313 billion in tax revenue over a decade, although the final tally is likely to be $258 billion once the revised bill is finalized.

The new tax could also inject a greater degree of complexity into the tax code, creating challenges in carrying out the law if it is passed.

“In terms of implementation and just bandwidth to deal with the complexity, there’s no doubt that this regime is complex,” said Peter Richman, a senior attorney adviser at the Tax Law Center at New York University’s law school. “This is a big change, and the revenue number is large.”

Because of that complexity, the corporate minimum tax has faced substantial skepticism. It is less efficient than simply eliminating deductions or raising the corporate tax rate and could open the door for companies to find new ways to make their income appear lower to reduce their tax bills.

Similar versions of the idea have been floated by Biden during his presidential campaign and by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. They have been promoted as a way to restore fairness to a tax system that has allowed major corporations to dramatically lower their tax bills through deductions and other accounting measures.

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According to an early estimate from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would most likely apply to about 150 companies annually, and the bulk of them would be manufacturers. That spurred an outcry from manufacturing companies and Republicans, who have been opposed to any policies that scale back the tax cuts that they enacted five years ago.

Although many Democrats acknowledge that the corporate minimum tax was not their first choice of tax hikes, they have embraced it as a political winner. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, shared Joint Committee on Taxation data Thursday indicating that in 2019, about 100 to 125 corporations reported financial statement income greater than $1 billion, yet their effective tax rates were lower than 5%. The average income reported on financial statements to shareholders was nearly $9 billion, but they paid an average effective tax rate of just 1.1%.

“Companies are paying rock-bottom rates while reporting record profits to their shareholders,” Wyden said.

The Treasury Department had reservations about the minimum tax idea last year because of its complexity. If enacted, Treasury would be responsible for crafting a raft of new regulations and guidance for the new law and for ensuring that the Internal Revenue Service could properly police it.

Michael J. Graetz, a tax law professor at Columbia University, acknowledged that calculating minimum taxes was complicated and that introducing a new tax base would add new challenges from a tax administration perspective, but he said that he did not view those obstacles as disqualifying. He noted that the current system had created opportunities for tax shelters and allowed companies to take losses for tax purposes that do not show up on their financial statements.

“If the problem that Congress is addressing is that companies are reporting high book profits and low taxes, then the only way to align those two is to base taxes on book profits to some extent,” Graetz, a former deputy assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, said.