Earlier this month, we at CFIF lamented the fact that the U.S. now claims the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate. Fortunately, as we noted, a bipartisan consensus is emerging in favor of reducing and reforming that rate.
Now, in a letter published by The Economist, twenty leading economists from both academia and the private sector called for a lower rate and illustrated how our current rate discourages employment and thwarts domestic investment:
A high corporate tax rate impairs our ability to attract domestic and foreign investment. Because capital and information flows more freely across borders in the Internet age, disparities in the corporate income tax rate can now have a greater impact on location decisions than in the past. The number of Fortune Global 500 headquarters in the United States decreased from 179 to 133 from 2000 to 2011, while China (25.0 percent tax rate), Switzerland (21.2 percent tax rate), and Korea (24.3 percent tax rate) experienced sizable increases over the same period. De Mooij and Ederveen (2005) found that a one percentage point reduction in a host country’s tax rate increased foreign direct investment by 2.9 percent. The OECD (2011) found that corporate income taxes, of all the different types of taxes, are most harmful to economic growth and capital accumulation.
A high corporate tax rate undermines job creation and reduces wages. According to the Commerce Department, foreign investment supported five million U.S. jobs in 2010. To the extent that our relatively high corporate tax rate discourages foreign investment, it discourages job formation. Moreover, several academic studies have found that much of the burden of the corporate income tax is borne not by capital but by domestic labor, in the form of lower wages. For example, Mathur and Hassett (2010) analyze the relationship between corporate tax rates and the average manufacturing wage for 65 countries over a period spanning 1981–2005; they estimate that a one percent increase in the corporate income tax leads to a one half of one percent decrease in hourly wages. The U.S. Treasury Department assumes that 25 percent of the incidence of corporate tax is borne by workers. Moreover, policies that increase the cost of capital will result in less capital being invested.”
As summarized by former Clinton Administration adviser Elaine Kamark and former Reagan adviser James Pinkerton, “This is another confirmation of the growing consensus among experts and political leaders that the U.S. corporate tax rate is too high and the code too complex.” They added, “As the experts have established, the current U.S. tax code is an impediment to investment, growth and job creation.”
The intellectual consensus thus continues to coalesce. Now it’s time for the White House and Congress to act before more harm is done.