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Posts Tagged ‘corporate taxes’

I’ve already commented on the Democrats deciding to wait until after the election before figuring out what to do about the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. This was a remarkable development since failure to extend these pieces of legislation means a big tax increase next January. But this doesn’t mean the Democrats are sitting on their hands. The President has a proposal to significantly increase the tax burden on American companies that compete in world markets, and Democrats on Capitol Hill think this is a winning political issue. They think higher taxes will encourage companies to keep more jobs in America, and they hope voters agree. But as the Wall Street Journal opines, this is a recipe for undermining the competitiveness of American companies. This means fewer jobs, and probably less tax revenue.

…the President’s plan reveals how out of touch Democrats are with the real world of tax competition. The U.S. already has one of the most punitive corporate tax regimes in the world and this tax increase would make that competitive disadvantage much worse, accelerating the very outsourcing of jobs that Mr. Obama says he wants to reverse.

At issue is how the government taxes American firms that make money overseas. Under current tax law, American companies pay the corporate tax rate in the host country where the subsidiary is located and then pay the difference between the U.S. rate (35%) and the foreign rate when they bring profits back to the U.S. This is called deferral—i.e., the U.S. tax is deferred until the money comes back to these shores.

Most countries do not tax the overseas profits of their domestic companies. Mr. Obama’s plan would apply the U.S. corporate tax on overseas profits as soon as they are earned. This is intended to discourage firms from moving operations out of the U.S.

…Mr. Obama believes that by increasing the U.S. tax on overseas profits, some companies may be less likely to invest abroad in the first place. In some cases that will be true. But the more frequent result will be that U.S. companies lose business to foreign rivals, U.S. firms are bought by tax-advantaged foreign companies, and some U.S. multinational firms move their headquarters overseas. They can move to Ireland (where the corporate tax rate is 12.5%) or Germany or Taiwan, or dozens of countries with less hostile tax climates.

We know this will happen because we’ve seen it before. The 1986 tax reform abolished deferral of foreign shipping income earned by U.S. controlled firms. No other country taxed foreign shipping income. Did this lead to more business for U.S. shippers? Precisely the opposite.

According to a 2007 study in Tax Notes by former Joint Committee on Taxation director Ken Kies, “Over the 1985-2004 period, the U.S.-flag fleet declined from 737 to 412 vessels, causing U.S.-flag shipping capacity, measured in deadweight tonnage, to drop by more than 50%.”

…Now the White House wants to repeat this experience with all U.S. companies. Two industries that would be most harmed would be financial services and technology, and their emphasis on human capital makes them especially able to pack up and move their operations abroad. CEO Steve Ballmer has warned that if the President’s plan is enacted, Microsoft would move facilities and jobs out of the U.S.

I’ve commented on this issue before, but I think the best explanation is in this video, which makes the key observation that American tax law may be able to discourage U.S. firms from building factories in other nations, but that simply means that companies from other countries will be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

A lot of Democrats, at least in private, admit that going after “deferral” is bad policy. But this makes the current proposal especially disgusting. People in the White House and on Capitol Hill know it will hurt jobs and reduce competitiveness, but they don’t care. Or at least they put political ambition before doing what’s right for the American people.

If they really cared, the would fix what’s wrong with the current system. A very effective way to encourage more jobs and investment in America is to lower the corporate tax rate, which is the point I made in the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s first video.

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I tangle with my old nemesis Christian Weller, one of the statists at the Center against American Progress, in a debate on whether the corporate tax rate should be reduced. I was somewhat amused that Christian defended the current system because companies currently are earning profits. Maybe I’ll eventually convince him to be a capitalist.

The debate was fairly uneventful, but I was a bit disappointed that my comment about the Laffer Curve got buried at the end of the segment. The fundamental point is that America has a very high corporate tax rate by world standards, yet we collect relatively little revenue. My argument, not surprisingly, is that revenues are low because the tax rate is high.

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Being a lazy procrastinator, I filed an extension April 15 and then waited until this weekend to do my tax return. This experience has reinforced my hatred and disdain for our corrupt and punitive tax system. I don’t even have a remotely complicated tax return, just a Cato salary and a few payments for articles and speeches on the income side, along with a standard set of itemized deductions for things like home mortgage interest.

But even dealing with a relatively simple tax return causes lots of angst and makes me long for a simple and fair flat tax. Actually, it makes me long for a limited government, as envisioned by our Founders, in which case we might not need any broad-based tax. And I suppose I shouldn’t blame the IRS. The real villains are the politicians who have spent the past 97 years turning the tax code into a monstrosity.

Now that I’m done venting, I suppose I should include some educational content. In honor of tax day for procrastinators, here are three videos on the flat tax, the IRS, and the global flat tax revolution.

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In a debate with one of the hopeless ideologues from the Center for American Progress, I criticize the corrupt deals between big government and big business, I warn about the big tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, I explain that Republicans did Obama a favor by blocking a bill to subsidize unemployment, and I laugh at the notion that government spending stimulates an economy.

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Richard Rahn’s Washington Times column makes several key points about corporate taxation, including the fact that excessive taxation of capital (the corporate income tax being just one example) is extremely foolish such taxes impose the most damage – per dollar collected – when compared with other forms of revenue. To add injury to injury, the U.S. corporate income tax is especially destructive in a competitive global economy.

The majority of taxaholics are particularly addicted to the most destructive taxes, being the taxes on capital. Up to a point, perfectly sound arguments can be made for taxing tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, etc. However, taxing capital at high rates or double or triple taxing is nothing more than self-destruction. Capital is what business people use to hire workers and purchase new plants and equipment. Taxes on corporations, capital gains, dividends and interest are primarily taxes on capital – and the heavier the tax, the fewer new jobs. In a new report published by the Cato Institute, international tax experts Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz at the University of Calgary in Canada state that the U.S. “statutory corporate income tax rate is one of the highest in the world…which harms the economy and encourages companies to shift investment and profits abroad to lower-tax jurisdictions.” (See attached chart.)  The authors estimated effective tax rates for 80 countries. (Effective tax rates take into account statutory tax rates plus tax base items that affect taxes paid on new investment, such as depreciation allowances.) They found that the “U.S. effective corporate rate is 35.0 percent, which is much higher than the 80-nation average of just 18.2 percent.”
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/may/11/taxaholics/

For a more detailed explanation of why the corporate income tax should be reduced, see the very first video produced by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. It was supposed to be a test for internal purposes, and the production values are not as advanced (hopefully) as more recent videos, but the message is worth sharing.

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