Economics, Pethokoukis, Taxes and Spending

The case for corporate tax reform in 1 chart


Through 2011, the United States had the second-highest combined corporate tax rate among advanced economies, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Actually, it’s worse than what the CBO says. Japan lowered its rate last year, and the US is now on top with an average combined rate — one including national and regional taxes — of 39.2% vs. 38% for Japan. The OECD average in 2012 was 25%.

But those are statutory rates. They don’t take into account tax offsets, the present value of depreciations, and other deductions that narrow the base and distort decision making. When you look at effective tax rates, the picture looks just as bad for America, though. Through 2010, the OECD average was about 21%, much lower than the US effective corporate tax rate of 29%. The US used to be on the lower end of corporate taxation, but not anymore.

What makes for a competitive, pro-market, pro-growth corporate tax code? Here’s economist Joel Slemrod in the new AEI book Rethinking Competitiveness, edited by Kevin Hassett:

Most economists, and I, believe the tax system most conducive to prosperity is a low-rate, broad-base tax system, one in most cases that minimizes the role of the tax system in private decision making and consequently allows market forces to determine the allocation of resources. … Unfortunately, the U.S. system of taxing business income fails to meet any of these standards. … The current U.S. system of taxing corporations distorts economic behavior on a number of margins and thus reduces national income, a reasonable but imperfect measure of prosperity.

One possible set of reforms, which I think are in line with the Slemrod criteria, has been proposed by AEI’s Alan Viard. He has proposed a business cash-flow tax as part of an X-tax plan. Some of its aspects:

1. All investment, including equipment, structures, land, and inventories, would be expensed.

2. Firms would deduct purchases from other firms, wages, fringe benefits, and pension contributions.

3. Sole proprietors would treat their business cash flow as wages, which would be taxed on household returns at the graduated rates.

4. Business tax preferences, except a reformed and permanent research tax credit, would be abolished. (The research tax credit would be a flat, non‐incremental credit, with qualified research limited to research undertaken to obtain knowledge that exceeds, expands, or refines the common knowledge of skilled professionals in the relevant field.)

17 thoughts on “The case for corporate tax reform in 1 chart

  1. “This pattern is consistent with the literature that explores the responses of tax revenue to changes in the corporate tax rate. Alex Brill and Kevin A. Hassett found SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE that a reduction of the corporate tax rate in the United States would increase corporate tax revenue.[7]”

    Doo-dah! Doo-dah!

    Of course, Hassett is the same “scholar” who wrote that famous guide to investing, “DOW 36,000!”

    You guys crack me up. You really try so hard to maintain the imprimatur of a reasoned, knowledgable group of “fellows” and scribes, doing real research in pursuit of the truth. And you come up with this crap.

    It’s hilarious. Really.

    • you provide a cohesive argument intertwined with facts that really prove this article wrong.

      you make such excellent points as “doo-dah!”, “you guys crack me up”, “imprimatur”, and combine this excellent criticism with logical attacks on the character of the authors.

      your point is well taken. It’s hilarious, really.

      • “you provide a cohesive argument intertwined with facts that really prove this article wrong.”

        That’s the joke. Would anyone NEED facts to prove these demagogues wrong? Why even bother? The article isn’t a result of genuine research. FIRST, you create the phony construct, THEN you build the “evidence” to butress it.

        It’s bullsh&t. All of it. And the authors have zero credibility. Being wrong by 81% has consequences.

        • “FIRST, you create the phony construct, THEN you build the “evidence” to butress it.”

          You’re right, Max. How could high corporate taxes be anything other than a boon for private enterprise? Maybe we should jack them up to 100% and really get the economy roaring.

          • Oh, get off it.

            First, while the statuatory rate is 35%, the actual rates corporations pay is all over the map. And that doesn’t even include commodity subsidies, if they are so entitled.

            For a couple of years, General Electric paid none or almost no taxes due to loss carry forwards for their brilliant underwriting in commercial real estate by their GE Capital division (and you pineapples go after CRA! F^^king sick!)

            So it’s not a question of “higher” or “lower” but how the code is structured.

            Of course, everyone is in favor of tax simplification- unless the revised code costs them more, in which case, they’re against it.

    • Hey Max, when do the monkey’s begin to fly out of your butt? Your command of the subject, and the intellectual content of your response, is hilarious.

      You crack us up. Keep up the comic relief.

      And for those of you who don’t already know, Max is an unemployed CFA with lots of time on his hands.

      • LOL!! Ed Pinto was just called out as a liar in today’s DealBook.

        I’m quite possibly the only source of the truth you gullible fools have.

    • If you’re not getting paid to troll here, you’re being ripped off. If you are getting paid to troll here, whoever is paying you is being ripped off.

  2. This is REALLY funny!

    “Dow 36,000

    Hassett is coauthor with James K. Glassman of Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market. It was published in 1999 before the dot-com bubble burst. The book’s title was based on a calculation that, in the absence of the equity premium, stock prices would be approximately four times as high as they actually were. In its introduction, Glassman and Hassett wrote that the book “will convince you of the single most important fact about stocks at the dawn of the twenty-first century: They are cheap….If you are worried about missing the market’s big move upward, you will discover that it is not too late. Stocks are now in the midst of a one-time-only rise to much higher ground–to the neighborhood of 36,000 on the Dow Jones industrial average.”[8] The Dow industrials index closed at 10,681.06 on the day of the book’s publication[9] but by the end of 2004 it remained at essentially the same level—10,783.01, having dropped over 25% in the meantime but recovered. As of March 9, 2009, the trough of the 2008-9 bear market, the Dow Jones was at 6,547.05, 81% below his 36,000 prediction.

  3. We should get rid of the corporate tax altogether. Where do corporations get the money to pay the taxes? Studies are all over the map, but they must get it from some combination of higher prices, lower wages, or reduced return on investment. Lower prices, higher wages, and bigger returns would be fine by me.
    Secondly, the convoluted tax code is a device that not only increases Congressional power but drains billions in productive energy from businesses.
    Some will argue that the corporate tax is the only way we have of recouping overseas investments, but that benefit pales in comparison to the waste of the tax in itself.

    • Agreed. Scrap corporate taxes entirely. Corporations don’t pay taxes, they pass them on to customers. Corporate taxes are large distortions to free market economics and a huge impediment to prosperity. They are also an artifice to hide the full cost of government from the citizens.

  4. A full account on the corporate income tax imposed on business ought to include the cost of compliance — lawyers, accountants, consultants, staff, etc. — that the income tax imposes. As I recall from some years back the total compliance cost was roughly equal to the revenue produced.

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