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Archive for the ‘Tax Harmonization’ Category

The fight for financial freedom and limited government is global. The Center for Freedom and Prosperity recognizes Eduardo Morgan Jr., an individual whose work for his native Panama echoes much of our own efforts to defend fiscal sovereignty from the onslaught of anti-growth taxation and regulation.

As Panama’s Ambassador to Washington from 1996 to 1998, Eduardo Morgan Jr. saw his country attacked by US political and economic leaders. Ever since, he has dedicated himself to exposing the hypocrisy of the OECD and its members for attacking other countries that want to compete for investment and capital.

Since the beginning of the year, Eduardo has also contributed factual analysis to the online discussion with his blog, which I highly recommend to our readers. His work on behalf of Panama should serve as an inspiration to all individuals and nations that seek freedom and prosperity.
http://www.eduardomorgan.com/blog/

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The federal government is capable of enormous waste, which obviously is bad news, but the worst forms of government spending are those that actually leverage bad things. The old welfare system, for instance, paid people not to work and have babies out of wedlock (this still happens, but it’s not as bad as it used to be). Paying exorbitant salaries to federal bureaucrats is bad, but it’s even worse if they take their jobs seriously and promulgate new regulations and otherwise harass people in the productive sector of the economy. In a previous video on the economics of government spending, I called this the “negative multiplier” effect.

One of the worst examples of a negative multiplier effect is the $100 million that taxpayers spend each year to subsidize the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This video has the gory details.

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Many people assume that Europe is the land of high-tax welfare states and America is an outpost of laissez-faire capitalism. We should be so lucky. The burden of government in America is still lower than it is in the average European nation, but the United States is a lot closer to France than it is to Hong Kong – and the trend is not comforting.

We recently endured the embarrassing spectacle of President Obama arguing with Europeans that they should increase the burden of government spending. Now we have a new report from the European Commission indicating that the average corporate tax rate in member nations of the European Union has plummeted to just 23.5 percent while the corporate tax rate in the U.S. has stagnated at 35 percent. In the past dozen years alone, as the chart illustrates, the average corporate tax rate in the European Union has dropped by nearly 12 percentage points. To make matters worse, the corporate tax rate in America actually is closer to 40 percent if state tax burdens are added to the mix.

This is not to say that European politicians are reading Hayek and Friedman (or watching Dan Mitchell videos on corporate taxation). Almost all of the positive reforms are because of tax competition. Thanks to globalization, it is increasingly easy for labor and (especially) capital to cross national borders to escape bad policy. As such, nations now have to compete for jobs and investment, and this liberalizing process is particularly powerful among nations that are neighbors.

Not surprisingly, European politicians despise tax competition and instead would prefer to impose a one-size-fits-all policy of tax harmonization. These efforts to create a tax cartel have a long history, beginning even before Reagan and Thatcher lowered tax rates and triggered the modern era of tax competition. The European Commission originally wanted to require a minimum corporate tax rate of 45 percent. And as recently as 1992, there were an effort to require a minimum corporate tax rate of 30 percent.

Fortunately, the politicians did not succeed in any of these efforts. As such, tax competition remains alive and corporate tax rates continue to fall. What remains to be seen, however, is whether America will join the race to lower corporate tax rates – and more jobs and investment.

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The United States has a very anti-competitive corporate tax regime. The federal tax rates is 35 percent and the average of state corporate tax systems brings the rate to nearly 40 percent. In Europe, by contrast, the average corporate tax rate is about 25 percent. Depending on which measure is used, the United States and Japan have been rivals for the dubious prize of having the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. But that’s about to change. According to a story that I saw linked on the Tax Foundation blog, the new Japanese government intends to lower its corporate tax rate by 10 to 15 percentage points. This means America will have no rivals in the contest for having the most anti-growth business tax system in the world. This is something to keep in mind the next time you hear a politician complaining about jobs going to China and India:

Japan’s new government plans to cut corporate tax closer to international norms as it tries to haul Asia’s biggest economy out of a long slump, the economy minister said in a report Friday.

The government is aiming to cut tax on company earnings by five percentage points next fiscal year, from an effective 40 percent now, the Nikkei business daily quoted Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima as saying.

“It’s a fact that international corporate tax rates are 10 to 15 points lower than Japan’s,” said Naoshima, who is part of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s new cabinet sworn in this week.

“Over the medium term, the government will aim to bring the rate down to around the global standard,” he said.

…”It is now the time to decide (on cutting corporate tax) for the sake of future economic vitality, employment and securing increased tax revenues,” the minister said.

“Japan’s economy has basically been in a slump for the past 20 years and people have been overwhelmed by a sense of stagnation.”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iEJsU0LVfqm6Ir6mybC5_wx5AyoQ

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In an amusing coincidence, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I were both in Latin America this week offering fiscal policy advice. But it won’t surprise you to know that Mrs. Clinton’s suggestions are radically different than the advice I provided. She spoke in Ecaudor and, according to an AFP report, said it was time for “the wealthy across the Americas to pay their “fair share” of taxes in order to eliminate poverty and promote economic opportunity for all.” She also claimed that “her appeal to overhaul tax systems did not amount to “class warfare” and was instead recognition that the “winner-take-all-approach” was a drag on progress.” The AFP story concludes with Mrs. Clinton asserting, “We can’t mince words about this. Levels of tax evasion are unacceptably high.” 

By contrast, in my remarks to the Fundacion Libertad in Panama and the Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador, I explained that academic research shows that better tax compliance is best achieved by lowering tax rates and eliminating inefficient and corrupt spending programs so that taxpayers have more confidence that their money is not being wasted. But let’s touch on something even more important than economics. I also made a moral argument about the danger of giving national tax authorities too much power and information – especially in a region where governments oftentimes are the source of oppression, expropriation, and tyranny. Simply stated, there are some things that are more important than obeying tax laws. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity video explains that so-called tax havens are an extremely important refuge for people who are subject to persecution and other forms of government malfeasance. 

Let’s consider some Latin American examples. Imagine a political dissident in Venezuela. Huge Chavez has turned that country into a thugocracy and opponents of his sinister regime are vulnerable to having their assets expropriated (and worse). Thankfully, many Venezuelans are able to protect themselves from socialist tyranny by putting their money in Cayman, Panama, or Miami (the U.S. is a tax haven for non-U.S. people). But if Mrs. Clinton got to make the rules, tax havens would no longer exist and Chavez would be empowered. 

Or what about families in Mexico, who rightfully are afraid that if they keep their money in the country and report it on their tax returns, corrupt bureaucrats in the national tax office will sell their names to kidnapping gangs and suddenly their children will be kidnapped and they will have to deal with the horror of getting a ransom note accompanied by a child’s finger. Fortunately, many Mexicans can guard against this horrific possibility by placing their assets in Cayman, Panama, or Miami. But in Mrs. Clinton’s ideal world, those options would not exist and many more people would experience the nightmare of vicious crime. 

And consider the plight of Argentineans. A few years ago, the nation’s venal government stole the private pension assets of the people. This is in addition to radical currency devaluations that have wiped out a big chunk of people’s savings. Prudent Argentineans have avoided these forms of back-door thievery by moving funds to Cayman, Panama, and Miami. In the Orwellian world envisioned by Mrs. Clinton, however, tax havens wouldn’t exist and governments would have carte blanche to engage in bad policy. 

This is not the first indication of Mrs. Clinton’s government-über-alles mindset as Secretary of State. Let’s remember that she urged class-warfare tax policy for Pakistan and more recently said Brazil was a role model for soak-the-rich tax policy (a strange assertion since the top tax rate there is only 27.5 percent). If nothing else, at least we can give her credit for being consistent. 

But if I have to choose between Mrs. Clinton’s consistent statism and protecting the liberty and freedom of oppressed and persecuted people, it’s no contest. Politicians and senior government appointees all over the world act as if folks in the private sector are nothing more than serfs and peasants who have an obligation to pay ever-higher tax burdens, so we should be happy that so-called tax havens offer a refuge – even if we don’t live in failed states such as Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina. Actually, since Obama is trying to turn us into Greece, maybe this issue will be important for Americans even sooner than we think.
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.34c2d1e015a4313d8a5326dff93b6f02.901

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Here’s a very disturbing report from FoxNews.com about a scheme at the United Nations to impose global taxes. This has been a long-time dream of the bureaucrats, who (naturally) are exempt from paying tax themselves. Here’s a link to a report I wrote on a separate UN tax threat nearly 10 years ago, and here’s an excerpt from the Foxnews.com story:

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ public health arm, is moving full speed ahead with a controversial plan to impose global consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and everyday financial transactions like paying bills online — while its spending soars and its own financial house is in disarray. The aim of its taxing plans is to raise “tens of billions” of dollars for WHO that would be used to radically reorganize the research, development, production and distribution of medicines around the world, with greater emphasis on drugs for communicable diseases in poor countries. The irony is that the WHO push to take a huge bite out of global consumers comes as the organization is having a management crisis of its own, juggling finances, failing to use its current resources efficiently, or keep its costs under control — and it doesn’t expect to show positive results in managing those challenges until a year from now, at the earliest. …the proposals are headed for the four-day annual meeting of the 193-member World Health Assembly, WHO’s chief legislative organ, which begins in Geneva on May 17. …What truly concerns the experts, however, is how to get the wealth transfers that will make the R and D transfers possible — on a permanent basis. The panel offers up a specific number of possibilities. Chief among them: • a “digital” or “bit” tax on Internet activity, which could raise “tens of billions of U.S. dollars”; • a 10 percent tax on international arms deals, “worth about $5 billion per annum”; • a financial transaction tax, citing a Brazilian levy that was raising some $20 billion per year until it was canceled (for unspecified reasons); • an airline tax that already exists in 13 countries and has raised some $1 billion. Almost casually, the panel’s report notes that the fundraising effort would involve global changes in legal structures — and policing. As the report puts it: “Introducing a new tax or expanding an existing tax may require legal changes, nationally and internationally and ongoing regulation to ensure compliance.” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/10/world-health-organization-moving-ahead-billion-dollar-internet-tax/

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Price fixing is illegal in the private sector, but unfortunately there are no rules against schemes by politicians to create oligopolies in order to prop up bad government policy. The latest example comes from the bureaucrats at the International Monetary Fund, who are conspiring with national governments to impose higher taxes and regulations on the banking sector. The pampered bureaucrats at the IMF (who get tax-free salaries while advocating higher taxes on the rest of us) say these policies are needed because of bailouts, yet such an approach would institutionalize moral hazard by exacerbating the government-created problem of “too big to fail.” But what is particularly disturbing about the latest IMF scheme is that the international bureaucracy wants to coerce all nations into imposing high taxes and excessive regulation. The bureaucrats realize that if some nations are allowed to have free markets, jobs and investment would flow to those countries and expose the foolishness of the bad policy being advocated elsewhere by the IMF. Here’s a brief excerpt from a report in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Strauss-Kahn said there was broad agreement on the need for consensus and coordination in the reform of the global financial sector. “Even if they don’t follow exactly the same rule, they have to follow rules which will not be in conflict,” he said. He said there were still major differences of opinion on how to proceed, saying that countries whose banking systems didn’t need taxpayer bailouts weren’t willing to impose extra taxation on their banks now, to create a cushion against further financial shocks. …Mr. Strauss-Kahn said the overriding goal was to prevent “regulatory arbitrage”—the migration of banks to places where the burden of tax and regulation is lightest. He said countries with tighter regulation of banks might be able to justify not imposing new taxes.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704627704575204732357395368.html

I’ve been annoyingly repetitious on the importance of making governments compete with each other, largely because the evidence showing that jurisdictional rivalry is a very effective force for good policy around the world. CF&P Foundation and I have done videos showing the benefits of tax competition, videos making the economic and moral case for tax havens, and videos exposing the myths and demagoguery of those who want to undermine tax competition. I’ve traveled around the world to fight the international bureacracies, and even been threatened with arrest for helping low-tax nations resist being bullied by high-tax nations. Simply stated, we need jurisdictional competition so that politicians know that taxpayers can escape fiscal oppression. In the absence of external competition, politicians are like fiscal alcoholics who are unable to resist the temptation to over-tax and over-spend.

This is why the IMF’s new scheme should be resisted. It is not the job of international bureaucracies to interfere with the sovereign right of nations to determine their own tax and regulatory policies. If France and Germany want to adopt statist policies, they should have that right. Heck, Obama wants America to make similar mistakes. But Hong Kong, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and other market-oriented jurisdictions should not be coerced into adopting the same misguided policies.

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