Every April, people across the country, from every background and every political affiliation, come together to complain about the same thing – their taxes. Tax Day marks the conclusion of a marathon (or for some an exhausting sprint) of sifting through endless forms, instructions, and questions about personal financial circumstances that may not fit the bureaucracy's muddled definitions. But on April Fool's Day, we "celebrated" an equally depressing occasion: the fifth anniversary of the United States having the highest combined statutory corporate rate among developed countries.
But even the effective tax rate, after deductions and credits are taken, continues to put our businesses, workers, and investors at a major disadvantage. According to a 2015 analysis using this type of calculation, America's burden of 35.3 percent is a great deal higher than the OECD average of 19.6 percent. For comparison's sake, Canada's corporate rate is roughly half of ours, at 18.6 percent. And despite recent attempts from the high-tax crowd to minimize this disparity, other measurements of effective tax rates continue to show the U.S. is in a losing position.
Countries around the world have reduced their corporate tax rates as a means of promoting economic growth through competition. The U.S. should follow suit.
Because of our exorbitant corporate rate, there has been a troubling trend of businesses relocating their headquarters to other nations with more favorable tax codes. In many cases, this occurs when American corporations purchase foreign-held businesses and reconstitute themselves as a new foreign company. The pattern of "inversion" for American businesses is bound to continue if changes are not made that allow companies to compete with corporations in foreign nations.
Individual taxes have a clear effect on taxpayers' bottom lines – just check your paystub. What is less universally recognized, however, is the impact that the corporate tax rate has on everyone—not just corporations.
If a company decides to move their headquarters from Belfast, Maine to Belfast, Ireland, that has serious implications for those employed by the company. Even the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, in its periodic examination of household tax burdens, has noted, "because the [corporate] tax reduces capital investment in the United States, it reduces workers' productivity and wages relative to what they otherwise would be." Shareholders, many of whom are retirees seeking steady returns, also suffer. Setting a fair corporate tax rate would effectively stop inversions and strengthen the American workforce.
Just as high business taxes inflict collateral damage on families, reducing those levels can benefit everyday people. In fact, the Tax Foundation conducted two studies examining the specific effect of corporate rate reduction on wages and economic growth.
According to their findings, if Congress reduced the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, wages would see a 2.9 percent increase and the equivalent of 650,000 jobs would be created as a result. On a larger scale, reducing the tax rate would allow companies to be more dynamic and profitable, aiding GDP growth across the country.
Thankfully, the stars have aligned for tax reform. American voters across the political spectrum have voiced their support for overhauling the tax system, as has the Trump administration. Congress has already made a good start, thanks to a blueprint developed last year by leaders in the House of Representatives. It emphasizes more reasonable rates, fewer unproductive loopholes, and simpler filing procedures.
Five years is far too long to hold the "honor" of having the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the developed world, and one of the worst effective rates. An even longer time has passed (30 years) since Washington comprehensively re-worked the business tax code. If Congress approaches the corporate tax rate issue correctly, and simplifies the system at the same time, this can be the last year the U.S. is a laughingstock on both counts.
Pete Sepp is president of the National Taxpayers Union.
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