National Debt Clock

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Obama Indefensible New Tax Policy

The U.S. now has about the highest combined corporate tax rate, second only to Japan among industrialized countries. That rate is so high that U.S. firms have an enormous disadvantage versus competitors. The average corporate tax rate for the major developed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2008 was about 27 percent, more than 10 percentage points lower than the U.S. rate.

U.S. firms have nonetheless prospered because our tax code allows a business to set up a subsidiary in a low-tax country. When that subsidiary earns profits, they are taxed at the rate of that country, and don’t face U.S. tax until the money is mailed home.

The authors found that “10 percent greater foreign capital investment is associated with 2.2 percent greater domestic investment, and that 10 percent greater foreign employee compensation is associated with 4 percent greater domestic employee compensation. Changes in foreign and domestic sales, assets, and numbers of employees are likewise positively associated; the evidence also indicates that greater foreign investment is associated with additional domestic exports and R&D spending.”

So when firms expand their operations abroad, taking advantage of the lower foreign tax rates, it helps their workers in the U.S. Higher sales abroad (surprise, surprise) are good for domestic workers.

How could Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner call a practice that top scholarship has shown increases wages and employment in the U.S. “indefensible?”

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