Our predictions about the law’s effects on business investment, wages and tax revenue were correct.
As Karl Popper demonstrated, evaluating a scientific proposition requires falsifiability—theories or hypotheses can’t be proved or disproved if they can’t be subjected to empirical tests. When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed, we were criticized for being overly optimistic about the effects we predicted it would have. Now the evidence is in. Our critics were wrong, and the economic data have met or even exceeded our predictions.
In 2017, we predicted that reducing the federal corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and introducing full expensing of new-equipment investment would boost productivity-enhancing business investment by 9%. Though growth in business investment had been slowing in the years leading up to 2017, after tax reform it surged. By the end of 2019 it was 9.4% above its pre-2017 trend, exactly in line with the prediction of our models. Looking solely at corporate businesses—those most directly affected by business-tax reform in 2017—real investment was up by as much as 14.2% over the pre-2017 trend, slightly more than we expected. Among S&P 500 companies, total capital expenditures in the two years after tax reform were 20% higher than in the two years prior, when capital expenditures actually declined.
Citing an extensive empirical literature, we also predicted that by enhancing worker bargaining power and increasing new investment in domestic plant and equipment, the average household would see real income gains of $4,000 over three to five years. In 2018 and 2019 real median household income in the U.S. rose by $5,000—a bigger increase in only two years than in the entire eight years of the preceding recovery combined. In 2019 alone, real median household income rose by $4,400, more than in the eight years from 2010 through 2017 combined.
Those extra wages contributed extra tax revenue as well. We predicted that despite a short-term drop in corporate income-tax revenue as companies expensed new-equipment investment, the combination of increased economic growth and reduced incentives to shift corporate profits overseas would result in a long-run net positive revenue effect. Before the reform, U.S. firms moved their profits overseas to avoid the highest tax of any advanced economy. After the reform, we predicted that more profits would be booked at home. For each dollar booked at home there would be a gain for the U.S. Treasury, since 21% of a positive number is much larger than 35% of zero.
Commentators have recently noticed that in the 2021 fiscal year, not only did federal corporate tax revenues come in at a record high, but corporate tax revenue as a share of the U.S. economy rose to its highest level since 2015. Actual corporate tax revenue in 2021 was $46 billion higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s post-reform forecast. Even though the U.S. economy was only slightly larger in 2021 than the CBO had projected, corporate tax revenue as a share of gross domestic product was 21% higher (1.7% versus 1.4%).
Some have attributed this good news to transitory effects related to the pandemic rather than 2017 tax reform. Yet in President Biden’s latest budget, the administration’s own baseline forecast for corporate tax revenue (i.e., before the revenue effects of its budget proposals) is now above the CBO’s pre-2017 forecast for every year from 2023 through 2027. This is true for both the level of corporate tax receipts and as a share of GDP. This optimistic forecast is consistent with our views about the long-run nature of the effects of tax reform and inconsistent with critics’ claim it has no effects.
Why are corporate tax receipts coming in not only at much higher levels, but also as a bigger share of the U.S. economy? The reason is exactly as we foreshadowed in the 2018 and 2019 Economic Reports of the President. By neutralizing the favorable tax treatment of selling intellectual-property services overseas via a foreign subsidiary, and by taxing past corporate earnings previously sheltered in those foreign subsidiaries, the 2017 tax law effectively created an incentive for multinational enterprises to move their profits home.
As a result, not only did domestic pretax earnings grow by a greater percentage than total pretax earnings between 2019 and 2021, they also grew by more for companies with greater foreign-derived income from intellectual property, meaning these firms were either repatriating intellectual property to the U.S. or locating less new intellectual property outside the U.S.
This is reflected in aggregate international transactions data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which shows that firms were repatriating only 36% of prior-year foreign earnings, and reinvesting 70% abroad, in the years leading up to 2017. Since 2019 they have on average repatriated 57%, and reinvested only 47% abroad. Overall since 2017, firms have repatriated $1.8 trillion in past overseas earnings.
In addition, the average annual dollar value of acquisitions by U.S. companies of foreign assets in 2018 and 2019 was 50% higher than in the two preceding years, while acquisitions of U.S. assets by foreign companies declined by 25%. Multinationals find the idea of domiciling in the U.S. and pursuing outbound acquisitions increasingly appealing. U.S. companies, on the other hand, are increasingly uninterested in being acquired by foreign multinationals and domiciling in lower-tax jurisdictions.
One of the exciting aspects of academic discovery is the opportunity to test theories and hypotheses against real-world data. In 2017, we put our hypotheses about the effects of corporate tax reform in the public record and have passed the test. The White House and Democrats in Congress should think twice about undoing the corporate tax reform and partisan economic pundits should point their criticisms at something else.
As slogans go, “build back better – which Joe Biden used to define his 2020 bid for the presidency – lags well behind “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “Make American Great Again,” and “I Like Ike” in clarity and vision. It’s not even close to “It’s the economy, stupid,” the unofficial campaign mantra of Bill Clinton’s successful run in 1992.
What Biden’s been doing during his first one hundred suggests even he didn’t understand what he meant. If he planned to create millions of new jobs – good jobs at good wages with good benefits as the Democrats used to say – the April jobs report indicates he’s failing.
What’s gone unreported is that jobs that are coming back – and there are some – are coming back as lockdowns are ending. The economic downturn that appears now to be ending was not the product of an expected downturn in economic activity but the direct result of state-by-state lockdowns that forced businesses to curtail operations or close as part of an ill-conceived effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
To supplement lost income, the Pelosi-led Congress joined first with Donald Trump and then with Biden to put the nation on relief. It’s no wonder, therefore, that business leaders are complaining they can’t find people to fill the jobs they have available once the Washington politicians incentivized joblessness instead of work by extending and enhancing unemployment benefits. It should be obvious that when you pay people not to work, they won’t work but somehow the experts in D.C. missed this.
Biden and the Democrats are nevertheless still all in. They said their $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” would save the economy. Instead, it looks like it’s dragging it back down while inflation, a monster the U.S. Federal Reserve was thought to have tamed, is once again rearing its ugly head. The price of goods and services on which the American people rely are increasing, suddenly and sharply, as the impact of trillions in new spending during the pandemic comes home to roost.
Now, according to the Washington Post and other outlets, the Democrats are having trouble building support for their latest $4 trillion tax and spend program. Moreover, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., is now warning the White House its planned tax hike “could hurt vulnerable House Democrats up for re-election in 2022.”
It’s an important message for Biden – who’s apparently sending it back marked “Return to Sender.” The president, it seems, remains intent on raising taxes on as many people, goods, and services as he can convince Congress to accept.
Biden’s initial proposal to take the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent landed with such a resounding “thud” he was forced to offer up 25 percent as a compromise. Even so, that would still move the United States back into an uncompetitive position with the world’s other industrialized economies. What is being omitted thus far from the discussion is that, when state-corporate levies are added in, the average U.S. combined national and subnational tax rises to 25.77 percent.
At 25 percent, what Biden has now put on the table, the combined rate would be 29.5 percent, higher than what is levied by China and higher than the average rate for countries in the OECD.
Moreover, says Americans for Tax Reform, a non-partisan group opposed to tax increases, “Workers, consumers, and shareholders will bear the burden of an increased corporate tax rate. Such a hike will cause businesses to invest less in the United States and more overseas, resulting in fewer job opportunities and lower wages for American workers:”
According to ATR:
–A Treasury Department study estimated that “a country with a 1 percentage point lower tax rate than its competitors attracts 3 percent more capital.” This is because raising the corporate rate makes the United States a less attractive place to invest profits.
–A 2012 Harvard Business Review piece by Mihir A. Desai notes that raising the corporate tax lands “straight on the back” of the American worker and will see a decline in real wages.
–A 2012 paper at the University of Warwick and University of Oxford found that a $1 increase in the corporate tax reduces wages by 92 cents in the long term. This study was conducted by Wiji Arulampalam, Michael P. Devereux, and Giorgia Maffini and studied over 55,000 businesses located in nine European countries over the period 1996-2003.
–Even the left-of-center Tax Policy Center estimates that 20 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax is borne by labor.
Biden’s insistence the corporate tax be raised, the cornerstone of his economic plan, will not create jobs, reduce debt, or bring increased revenues into the U.S. Treasury. It will however be a boon to almost every one of America’s competitors in the global marketplace.
Joe Biden made a lot of promises during his truncated run for the White House. One of them, that he wouldn’t be Donald Trump, he’s kept. The others, most of which were grounded philosophically in the idea he was a moderate Democrat – an image the mainstream media cheerfully did its best to confirm, have gone out the window.
On economics, on cultural issues, even on foreign policy he’s not just reverting to the positions taken during the Obama years. No, he’s breaking new ground in so many areas it’s clear he’s trying to be a transformational president rather than the caretaker who brought us all together he suggested time and again that he’d be.
His latest foray into the grand schemes of central planning is his lately-much-discussed infrastructure proposal that’s starting to look like “the green new deal” – which he said repeatedly he wasn’t for – plus a lot of other things.
What he wants to do is bad enough. How he plans to pay for it is even worse. Now, the whole business is carrying with it an estimated $2 trillion price tag, a figure that is ambitiously modest. It’s going to cost a lot more and, as if the Democrats ever need a reason to do it, he’s going to suggest a slew of new taxes and tax hikes to get the money.
According to an analysis of the proposal released Tuesday by Americans for Tax Reform, the starting point for Biden will be an increase in the top corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent alongside the introduction of a 21 percent global minimum tax, an idea beloved by European advocates for enlarging the welfare state to end tax competition between nations.
If that were not bad enough, he’s also calling for a doubling of the capital gains tax to almost 40 percent, imposing a second death tax by ending step up in basis, and raising the top individual income tax rate to 39.6 percent.
What he wants is tax reform in reverse. The right way to do it is to broaden the base and cap or eliminate deductions the way Reagan and Trump did it. In both cases that acted as rocket fuel to a moribund U.S. economy. What Biden is proposing to do will choke off growth and reduce incentives to save and invest – making America more like Japan in the process, a big economy with no appreciable growth.
“Biden’s tax hikes,” ATR said, “will hit Main Street small businesses hard. Small businesses that are organized as pass-through entities (sole proprietors, LLCs, S-corps etc.) pay taxes through the individual code and will be hit by Biden’s plan to raise the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent.”
Moreover, the group said, the increase in the corporate rate – if Biden gets what he is said to want – will cause utility bills to go up. “Utility customers bear the cost of taxes imposed on utility companies. Utility companies pay the corporate income tax. Corporate income tax cuts drive utility rates down, corporate income tax hikes drive utility rates up. When Republicans enacted a corporate tax rate cut, utilities across the country lowered their rates.”
What that means is higher taxes for just about everyone, shattering his promise that those making less than $400,000 a year (even if that’s by household and not individually, a distinction the then-former vice president never made on the campaign trail) “Inclusive of state taxes and the Obamacare 3.8 percent Obamacare tax, Californians would face a capital gains rate of 56.7 percent, New Yorkers would face a capital gains rate of 52.2 percent, New Jerseyans would face a capital gains tax rate of 54.14 percent.”
That makes it clear why Democrats from those and other high-tax states are adamant about repealing the cap the Trump tax reform put on the deductibility of state and local taxes also called “SALT.”
Without the SALT cap, taxpayers in well-run red states end up subsidizing the inefficiency, bloat, and wasteful spending in the poorly run blue states like New York and Illinois. That may be outrageous but it’s also Biden policy – and what the Democrats stand for. Taking money from the people (and states) that have it and oversee it responsibly to subsidize those who manage what they have poorly if at all.
As ATR points out, the proposed Biden’s corporate tax hike would make the U.S. top rate higher than Communist China’s 25 percent, a nation not thought likely to join in the effort to establish a global minimum corporate tax. What the president is proposing is an incentive for American companies to move to China rather than bring their operations home, something the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated “IRL” might be a good idea whose time has come.
The Democrats used to criticize the GOP for supporting tax cuts for any reason. Now the worm has turned. Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party are now for higher taxes for any reason, the health of the U.S. economy be damned. His tax plan is a bad policy – bad for everyone, except maybe China.
They said it wouldn’t happen, but it did: The money companies stashed overseas to protect them from high U.S. corporate tax rates is flooding back in, boosting growth, jobs and confidence in the economy. Thank the Trump tax cuts.
All told, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported, some $305.6 billion returned to the U.S. from overseas accounts. That’s a $1.2 trillion annual rate, and far more than the $35 billion one year before.
The BEA’s analysts explain why this happened: “The large magnitudes (of inward capital flows) … reflect the repatriation of accumulated earnings by foreign affiliates of U.S. multinational enterprises and their Continue reading
Taxes: One of the talking points Democrats and the left often drag out to justify reversing the Trump tax cuts is that the U.S. is “undertaxed” compared with other nations. A new study shows that’s false.
Everyone from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to socialist independent Bernie Sanders says they would reverse the tax cuts. It’s premised not on the idea that we spend too much, but that working Americans keep just too dang much of their own money.
The problem is, as a new OECD study shows, that’s not true.
The OECD, the think tank for the world’s wealthiest nations, looked at 12 major countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The U.S. finished third in terms of taxes at 18.4% of income. Continue reading
Taxes: There’s a growing disconnect between the economic benefits spinning off the Republican tax cuts and the poll numbers. Is the public going sour of them? Or is this just more wishful thinking on the part of Democrats and the liberal press?
Just the past week saw three more examples of the tax cuts’ benefits.
Item 1: Kroger announced that it was accelerating wage hikes, increasing the company’s 401(k) match, enhancing benefits, and expanding employee discounts. All, it said, thanks to the Republican tax reforms. Kroger joins more than 500 other companies who’ve extended bonuses, wage hikes, or improved benefits to more than 4 million workers in the wake of the law’s sharp reduction in corporate tax rates.
Item 2: A Gallup poll found that the public thinks the tax code is more fair today than it was before the Republican tax cuts took effect. Just 42% now say middle income families pay too much in income taxes, down from 51% last year. And 26% Continue reading
By Tripp Mickle • Wall Street Journal
Apple Inc. AAPL 1.65% said it would pay a one-time tax of $38 billion on its overseas cash holdings and ramp up spending in the U.S., as it seeks to emphasize its contributions to the American economy after years of taking criticism for outsourcing manufacturing to China.
The world’s most valuable publicly traded company laid out its plans Wednesday in a statement that was full of big-dollar figures, though it said that much of the money reflected Apple’s current pace of spending.
Apple said it would invest $30 billion in capital spending in the U.S. over five years that would create more than 20,000 jobs. The total includes a new campus, which initially will house technical support for customers, and $10 billion toward data centers across the country. It also will expand from $1 billion to $5 billion a fund it established last year for investing in advanced manufacturing in the U.S.
All told, Apple said it would directly contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years, with the bulk—about $55 billion this year, for example—coming from ongoing spending on parts and services from U.S. suppliers. That number also includes the federal tax payment and capital spending.
By Dan McLaughlin • National Review
The Republican tax plan has a lot of moving parts, but its centerpiece is a major long-term cut in corporate taxes. American businesses have been eagerly anticipating these cuts, and 2017’s strong stock performances were driven in part by an expectation in the market that they were coming. Liberal critics are apt to downplay the impact that corporate tax rates have on the competitiveness of American business — but the news from around the globe suggests that our economic competitors are very aware of the threat that the “Trump tax cuts” will lure more business back to the United States, or stem the departures of existing businesses, unless they take steps to keep up.
China: The Chinese government may not share America’s view of how to stay competitive, but it recognizes that the Republican plan improves America’s position. From the Wall Street Journal:
In the Beijing leadership compound of Zhongnanhai, officials are putting in place a contingency plan to combat consequences for China of U.S. tax changes as well as expected interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve, according to people with knowledge of the matter. What they fear is a double whammy sapping money out of China by making the U.S. a more attractive place to invest.
by Alfredo Ortiz • Real Clear Politics
Pending tax cut legislation will eliminate the federal income tax burden on the average American family earning $59,000 a year. It will halve the tax bill for the average family earning $75,000. And it will allow the overwhelming majority of small businesses to protect nearly one-quarter of their income from taxes.
That’s the bottom line of the tax bill that needs to be said up front.
Given the critical media coverage of the bill, these benefits have largely gone overlooked. Rather than reporting on its provisions to double the standard deduction, double the child tax credit, and eliminate the 15 percent tax bracket in favor of a vastly expanded 12 percent rate, media coverage has claimed the bill is a gift to the rich. Rather than reporting on the new 23 percent tax deduction for small businesses earning less than $500,000 a year, media
coverage has claimed the bill is a budget buster.
That’s a shame because these benefits would bring long overdue relief to hardworking taxpayers who have borne the brunt of the slow growth Obama economy from which the country is finally emerging. Continue reading
By Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
One in five small businesses, or 22 percent, pay at least $10,000 on the administration of federal taxes each year, according to the National Small Business Association’s 2017 taxation survey. This does not include the money that a business owes the IRS in taxes.
Five percent of small businesses pay more than $40,000 a year on the administration of federal taxes, seven percent pay between $20,001 and $40,000, and ten percent pay between $10,001 to $20,000. The majority of businesses, 67 percent, pay more than $1,000.
Small businesses and their staff also spend significant amounts of time dealing with taxes, whether it be by filing reports, working with accountants, or calculating payroll. Twenty percent of businesses spend more than 120 hours annually. Continue reading
Rather than trying to ban the practice, why can’t Obama address corporate tax reform?
by Charles Krauthammer • National Review
The Obama administration is highly exercised about “inversion,” the practice by which an American corporation acquires a foreign company and moves its headquarters out of the U.S. to benefit from lower tax rates abroad.
Not fair, says Barack Obama. It’s taking advantage of an “unpatriotic tax loophole” that hardworking American families have to make up for by the sweat of their brow. His treasury secretary calls such behavior a violation of “economic patriotism.”
Nice touch. Democrats used to wax indignant about having one’s patriotism questioned. Now they throw around the charge with abandon, tossing it at corporations that refuse to do the economically patriotic thing of paying the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Continue reading
President Barack Obama says it’s “not fair” and “not right” for U.S. companies to set up overseas to avoid taxes. Except when it benefits him politically.
The president calls these companies “corporate deserters.” He says they are “still using all the services and all the benefits of effectively being a U.S. corporation,” but have “just decided” to go through the “paper exercise” of corporate inversion, in which U.S. companies with foreign subsidiaries can reduce their tax bill by becoming foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries.
“I think it’s something that would really bother the average American,” he said recently, “the idea that somebody renounces their citizenship but continues to entirely benefit from operating in the United States of America just to avoid paying a whole bunch of taxes.”
Many companies are planning to flee the country because the United States of America has the highest corporate tax rate — 35 percent — in the developed world. It simply makes sense for them to do so. They are obligated to shareholders to be as competitive and profitable as possible. Continue reading