Recently we posted an article entitled New studies: do ‘competitive’ corporate tax cuts boost growth? – to which the answer was a qualified ‘no.’ Well, now we are delighted to host a guest blog by Prof. Nikolay Anguelov of the Department of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who has produced an important new working paper looking at this question. Entitled “Lowering the Marginal Corporate Tax Rate: Why the Debate?” it provides a range of further evidence and insights. (This article will be permanently stored on a section of our site called The Harms.)
Update: see our January 5, 2016 article New research: ‘competing’ aggressively on tax reduces growth, a guest blog by Nikolay Anguelov of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Recently Prof. Matthew Watson wrote an article for us entitled The Anti-Growth Dynamics of the Competitiveness Agenda, in which he outlined generic reasons, both from a supply side and a demand side, where supposedly ‘competitive’ policies on wages and in other areas are likely to depress economic growth.
Now a new study from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) complements this and notes something more specific that we’ve remarked on previously: that ‘competitive’ corporate tax cuts are likely to be equivalent to pushing on a string. They will tend to feed corporate cash hoarding (what Mark Carney has called ‘dead money’) instead of business investment – while sucking revenue and investment and spending power out of the government sector, depressing demand and investment. The likely result is slower growth.
How does this stack up, from an empirical perspective? Well a new blog from the Tax Justice Network constitutes good supporting evidence for the proposition that ‘competitive’ corporate tax cuts depress growth.
New Study: Corporate Tax Cuts may have been ‘The Greatest Blunder.’
Across the world corporations are showered with tax breaks and other inducements in the name of ‘competitiveness.’ In most cases these tax breaks don’t affect investment decisions in any way. They are pure giveaways. In many countries it’s been hard to track the scale and extent of these giveaways, although recently we reported on one such effort by Kevin Farnsworth in the UK, which noted that the race to the bottom between nations and states on tax and corporate subsidies doesn’t stop at zero: it just keeps heading on downwards.
In the United States there has been some very good work done by nonprofit groups, notably Good Jobs First, to expose what’s been going on. (Greg Leroy, Director of Good Jobs First, attended the Fools’ Gold inaugural meeting in Warwick, UK, in February this year.
Now they report in a press release on an excellent development – a form of transparency that’s recommended for all countries.
Updated with new IMF data, June 22, 2015; and with Philip Baker comments; June 29, 2015
Update 2: from Reuters, Dec 22, 2015:
“Seven of the biggest investment banks operating in London paid little or no tax in Britain last year, despite reporting billions of dollars in profits, a Reuters analysis of corporate filings shows.”
How tax wars may affect UK small and big business
So-called “competition” between countries on tax (which some of us think is generally better known as “Tax Wars”) is a process that has nothing to do with what people normally understand competition to be. (To get a first sense of the differences, ponder the differences between a failed company and a failed state. Or look at this.)
The process produces a range of harms, which stem from basic operating principles. Capital can shift easily across borders, but workers generally can’t. So governments try to lure mobile capital by cutting taxes on it — then make up for the lost tax revenues by taxing ordinary people and workers more — since it’s far tougher for workers to rip their kids out of school and move when tax rates change.
The end result is that taxes on capital fall, and workers suffer higher taxes. Among other things, this increases inequality.
UK tax barrister Jolyon Maugham, who is at a tax conference today, issued these tweets, citing the UK’s returning Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke:
Cross-posted with the Tax Justice Network.
From the Financial Times, a report on a survey by the Tolley Tax Journal of businesses’ responses to the UK’s policy of savage cuts to the corporate income tax. It’s about the UK, but it has wide international relevance.
“More than six out of 10 respondents thought the cut in the corporate tax rate, by 8 percentage points to 20 per cent, had boosted their own companies’ investment and growth, although for most it only had a marginal impact.”
The Tax Justice Network has just published a major report entitled Ten Reasons to Defend the Corporate Income Tax.
The press release is below, but the part that is of particular interest for the Fools’ Gold blog is Section 4, which talks about the corporate tax in the context of so-called ‘competitiveness.’
Here is the press release:
- Update: reposted on Naked Capitalism site in the U.S., and the Angry Bear tax and economics blog, and the Middle Class Political Economist.
- Update 2: See also Ireland’s Recent Success Not Built on Low Taxes, by Kenneth Thomas, author of Investment Incentives and the Global Competition for Capital. In which he makes similar arguments.
Did Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate create the Celtic Tiger?
Ireland has long been a poster child for corporate tax-cutting. The standard argument goes something like this. “Ireland has very low corporate taxes . . . Celtic Tiger . . . just goes to show that corporate tax cuts grow your economy.” This argument is popular in Ireland too where government officials like to call the flagship 12.5 percent corporate income tax rate a “cornerstone” of industrial policy.
But is any of this even true?
Well, now take a look at this little graph that we created for this blog. We aren’t aware that a graph like this has been made before.