Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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公司税难题

伯克利—如今,美国的法定公司税率是发达国家中最高的。尽管实行了多种税收减免和其他优惠措施,有效边际税率——即公司需要支付的税额占美国新投资的比重——仍然是世界最高之一。

在一个资本可以流动的世界中,公司税率兹事体大,怎样投资、在何处投资等商业决策越来越敏感于此税的国际差别。美国相对较高的税率无异于鼓励美国公司将投资、生产和招聘放到国外去进行,也阻止了外国公司前来美国,而这又意味着更慢的增长、更少的就业岗位、更小的生产率改进以及更低的真实工资。

在传统智慧看来,公司税负担首先是由资本所有者以低回报率的形式负担的。但是,随着资本流动性的增加,流动性相对较低的工人正在以更低工资、更少就业机会的形式承担更大的负担。这就是为什么世界各国都在削减公司税率。由此造成的“减税竞赛”反映了日益激烈的全球竞争,争夺资本和技术秘辛以支持本国就业和工资。

此外,由于创新金融交易和合法避税机制的存在,高公司税率是一种低效率、高成本的税收收入工具。公司可以操纵其法律登记地和收入的地理源来达到此种目的,这样做的激励和空间在竞争优势取决于无形资本和知识的部门尤其强烈和广大,而这些部门正是美国经济竞争力之主要所在。

如果没有紧密广泛的国际合作,美国就必须加入减税竞赛,降低公司税率。更低的税率能增强美国投资和就业岗位创造的激励,减弱避税的激励,还能去除大量起到妨碍效率的扭曲作用的税法内容(包括债券融资较股权融资显而易见的税收优势以及非公司业务较公司业务显而易见的税收优势)。

但公司税率每降低1个百分点,联邦收入将减少120亿美元/年。此收入损失可以用所谓的“公司税支出”的减少(即税前扣减、税收豁免和其他对某些经济活动的税收补贴)以及惩罚他人(扩大公司税基)弥补。总统奥巴马的企业税改革计划和辛普森-鲍尔斯(Simpson-Bowles)赤字削减计划都打算通过减少此类支出补偿公司税率的下降。

公司税支出缩小了税基,提高了守法纳税的成本,也扭曲了投资项目、如何融资、采取何种企业组织形式、在何处生产等方面的决策。格林斯通(Michael Greenstone)和鲁尼(Adam Looney)5月3日最新出版的报告《关于税收改革的若干事实》(http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2012/05_taxes_greenstone_looney/05_taxes_greenstone_looney.pdf)指出,由此造成的不同企业活动之间有效税率的差异非常大。

如此说来,如果公司税改革的目标是提振投资和就业岗位创造,那么扩大税基以补偿低税率将不利于达成目标。堵上“特殊利益”漏洞(如石油和天然气税收减免,或公务机税收减免)并不能增加足够的收入弥补有意义的税率削减。而阻止加速折旧、制造业产品税收扣减和研发税收减免(大约占公司税支出的80%)也将牵涉重大权衡。

事实上,削减这些项目以“补偿”公司税的降低可能最终会抬高美国公司经济活动的总税负。禁止设备的加速折旧会提高新投资的有效税率;国内生产不再享受税收优惠将增加美国制造业的有效税率;而取消研发税收优惠将减少创新方面的投资。

美国不应该削减已被证明了的商业活动的谁手机里,至少一部分因降低公司税率造成的收入损失应该用提高公司股东税率的办法来补偿。大部分降低了公司税率的国家都采用了这个办法,而美国却反其道而行之。

美国的股票红利和资本利得税率为15%,处于历史最低值,而利润占国民收入的比重则处于历史最高值。资本所有者低税率的捍卫者支出,这让公司收入的“双重”税收最小化了——首先是对公司征税,然后再对公司股东征税。降低公司税可以削弱这一说法的说服力。此外,养老基金、退休金计划以及非营利组织(大约获得了50%的公司红利总额)的收益不用纳税,从而可以从公司税率降低中获益。

尽管公司收入的个人税收降低了储蓄的税后回报,但与公司税相比,它们具有更小的对投资目的地选择的扭曲效应,也更容易落在资本所有者而不是工人头上。此外,从个人公民和居民股东头上征税要比从跨国公司头上征税容易得多。苹果公司可以采用复杂的手段操纵其公司收入的来源地,但拥有苹果股票的美国个体公民必须报告其收入(不管在世界何处赚得)中的苹果股票红利和资本利得。

一项最新的研究发现,对资本利得和股票红利像正常收入一样课税(按1997年之前的标准,长期资本利得税率最高不超过28%)可以补偿公司税率从35%削减至26%。这样的变化能够减弱公司将投资移向海外或将利润源移向抵税地区的激励,同时将更多的公司税负担由劳动力移向资本所有人,从而增加税收结果的累进性质。

对许多相信公司并未支付合理的税收比重并担心不平等性愈演愈烈的美国选民来说,提高公司税颇具吸引力。但是,在一个资本可以流动的世界里,提高公司税率(或维持现有水平不变)无益于增加岁入,无益于增进税收制度的累进性质,也无益于帮助美国工人。

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  1. Commentedjracforr jracforr

    In a world of mobile capital, corporate-tax rates matter, but it represent one of many factors that influence business investment. Cheap labor and lower infrastructure cost in less developed economies such as China and other S E Asian nation provided the incentive for American business to relocate to those areas, not the tax structure.
    While corporate taxes, workers pension and health insurance cost all need to be revised they were not factors in our economic disaster, because the world's economy with it's varied rules and regulations, was doing exceptionally well just before the banking crisis , a crisis caused by greed and dishonesty.
    It would be helpful to see someone of your statue focus for a while on the "greed and dishonesty" factor as the real cause of our economic problem. No disrespect intended you articles are informative and appreciated.

  2. CommentedMATTHEW M

    According to the World Factbook by the CIA, the United States collects through taxation 15% of GDP, making it 188 out of 210 countries: one of the lowest rates globally. Other sources have consistently noted that taxes both at the individual and corporate are at the lowest levels in 80 years.

    Additionally, the US investment back into the country is at a low level 12.4% of GDP, making it 174 out of 210 countries.

    This article is insightful but complex: is not the simple question, what kind of country do we want to have? With aging infrastructure and demographics, common sense dictates that more resources are needed.

    Common sense also should be apparent that there is an inverse relationship of taxing policy to earnings. As the tax rate moves to zero and one keeps more of their income, there is a disincentive to work harder or to make prudent investments.

    The often quoted Laffer curve has had much independent study or analysis with an optimal revenue point of around 60-70% tax rates. The Curve though has historically been used to justify lower tax rates, broadening the base, thereby increasing overall receipts.

    However, these analysis were during the most rapid expansion post Depression and WWII and have little relevance to the US now mature life cycle in growth: ie 2-3% nominal growth in GDP. And also does not take into account the new globally competitive business environment.

    Weak and bought politicians have perverted the tax code into a convoluted entangled mess that protects big monied interests from big oil to big finance to big agricultural. The real dreaded third rail in American politics since the 1980's at all levels, federal, state and local has been taxation.

    Reagan used Greenspan's advice to raise SS/Medicare contributions to hide deficits as one example.

    Again, ultimately, collecting too little receipts and not making investments in infrastructure, technology, education and research is what will really kill business competitiveness.

  3. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The article and comments here are impressive. I apologise for lowering the level.

    Inequality has broadened and deepened over the past three decades. Much of this has coincided with a lower tax rate on capital and corporation profits. After almost a century of narrowing the gap between rich and poor this is not a welcome change.

    History tells us that the longest surviving systems are those that adapt quickly and intelligently. The system is losing the consent of the governed. It may be time for international concerted action to control the transnational entities that now threaten the existence of liberal democracy. Common rates of corporation tax may form a component of the mildest form of this.

  4. Commentedphilip meguire

    We very badly need base broadening and radical simplification. But cutting the corporate tax rate is not the best way to move us toward that goal.

    The relevant base for the corporate income tax is cash flow from operations. In 2009-10, the corporate income tax as a % of corporate cash flow was at its lowest level since 1939. The total amount of corporate income tax collected could rise 50-80% without significant harm. All this is consistent with David Doney's facts #2 a#3.

    Like so much discussion of tax policy, this article does not keep its eye on the ball, namely simplicity of administration and collection. I do not agree that "..it is far easier to collect taxes from individual citizens and resident shareholders than from multinational corporations." If it is true, it amounts to picking on the less mobile and less sophisticated among us.

    The fundamental problem with income taxation is that it taxes recipients instead of payers. It is much much easier to locate income payers than ultimate recipients. Taxes should be levied at the source, and factor payments should be received having already paid tax. Such a tax is harsh on those with modest incomes; hence the need for demogrants. Maximising simplicity and minimising distortions requires that the demogrant be paid to all legal residents of a country. I have caculated that a tax on business value added, net of capital expenditure, at the flat rate of 35% (the current corporate income tax rate), with FICA/Medicare taxes credited in full against flat tax liabilities, and a demogrant of $350/person/month, would go a long towards balancing the budget and eliminating poverty.

    I would like to see the EU, Canada, Japan, and Australasia all adopt such a tax system. Nations could choose differing demogrant amounts. Nations and local authorities could still differ in the way they tax property and retail sales.

    If a firm creates a foreign sub to take advantages of cheaper wages, that will increase the parent's bottom line. That bottom line will remain fully taxable.

    The shift of taxation from capital to labour amounts to the exploitation of labour: exploiting the fact that language, culture, personal association, and family ties make labour less mobile than capital. All forms of value added should face the same marginal rate. This would put debt and equity, and corporates and noncorporates, on the same footing. It would eliminate the double taxation of dividends, a fact which makes the 15% tax rate on qualified dividends and capital gains grossly misleading. That rate is in truth 1-(1-0.35)(1-0.15) = 44.75%. I propose to lower that rate to 35%, but to apply that rate not only to value added but also capital gains realised by businesses.

    "pension funds, retirement plans, and non-profit organizations, which receive about 50% of all corporate dividends, do not pay tax [thereon]" Tax advantaged retirement plans exist mainly to correct drawbacks in the status quo. Abolish that status quo, treat all investors alike alike, and retirement plans cease to matter for tax law. If nothing changes, in 2050 something like 80% of dividends will be received by untaxed investors. We should accept this likelihood, increase the taxation of dividends at the corporate level, and abolish their taxation at the personal level.

    The wages and interest paid by nonprofits are fully taxable. The dividends nonprofits and retirement plans receive have paid corporate income tax. At present, the main advantage of nonprofits and retirement plans is that they don't have to pay taxes on interest, real estate income, and realised capital gains. I propose to tax interest and real estate income at the source, and to exempt from tax all realised capital gains on assets owned by households and nonprofits. Nonprofits would also not include donations received in their value added subject to tax.

    Taxing capital gains at realisation penalises desirable portfolio adjustments, and hugely advantages untaxed forms of investment. No one has come up with a practical way of correcting capital gains for inflation, or of exempting realised capital gains that are reinvested in short order. Finally there is the step-up in the tax basis at death.

    The effective average tax on the 400 largest returns filed in the USA is 26%. I propose to raise that to 35%. Mr Buffett would be pleased, I think.

    What I write above stems from 30 years' reflection on the Flat Tax of Hall and Rabushka.

  5. CommentedDavid Doney

    Good stuff from Ms. Tyson, as usual.

    1) Why don't we make the capital gains tax rate progressive like the income tax? Why only one rate? Make it higher for investors with more capital gains income. It is not a material number for retirees, who rely on pensions, social security, interest and dividends primarily.

    2) According to the CBO historical tables, corporate income taxes averaged 2.0% GDP over the past 40 years, but collections were 1.0% GDP in 2009, 1.3% in 2010 and 1.2% in 2011. They were 2.7% GDP in 2006 and 2007. So the burden isn't that high relative to GDP.

    3) CBO found in 2005 that the U.S. ranked 27th lowest of 30 OECD countries in its collection of corporate taxes relative to GDP, at 1.8% vs. the average 2.5%. I don't have a more recent analysis.

    http://www.cbo.gov/publication/17501


    What I would rather see is a tax on corporations that offshore for the wage differential or an outright banning of off-shoring jobs where the intent of the position is to export goods or services back to the U.S.

    This off-shoring has contributed to a $650 billion goods trade deficit and anemic job creation (just 2 million net new jobs 2000-2009 versus 15-21 million in each of the 3 preceding decades).

    If economies are built one job at a time, exporting them is probably a bad idea.

  6. CommentedRobert Ley

    Apparently Ms. Tyson doesn't do her own taxes! Her argument makes sense if the word "dividends" is omitted, as it should be. Dividends, unless they are 'capital gain distributions' from a mutual fund, are taxed as ordinary income, not the 15% for capital gains. They are truly taxed twice. Lowering the corporate rate would partially ameliorate the 'double taxation' complaint. Ordinary dividends are income in the same way that interest on your money market account is income. One is invested in a company which has elected to return some of its income to its shareholders, the other placed with an institution which can invest it and provide a return to the depositor. Same difference. Tax them the same.

      CommentedRobert Ley

      SORRY Dr. Tyson. Mea culpa.
      "Qualified dividends" are indeed taxed at 15%. And they should also be taxed at higher rates, just like capital gains, as she suggests.

  7. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Trust that we are calculating the impact of these reforms on the government debt to Government revenue, and this ratio which has been growing would further lead to an abnormal number in the short run.

    We are looking at an elephant like many blind men would do and the trunk as in this case (the corporate tax reform), works in cross purpose to the body (the short run revenue) and in the long term in any case we are all dead.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  8. CommentedEmre Konukoglu

    Assuming that the activities for tax avoidance are costly (likely with a sizeable fixed cost component) the corporations have already accrued a significant portion of these costs. Therefore, I don't see why lowering the tax rate will necessarily result into lower incentives for tax avoidance.

  9. CommentedElizabeth Pula


    Now here’s the end summation, from the “report” (The Hamilton Project) linked in the article:

    Tax Reform Facts:
    1. America collects lower revenues than
    other industrialized countries
    2. Tax expenditures represent a large share
    of total government spending.
    3. The tax code subsidizes some activities
    and penalizes others.
    4. The tax system has become less
    progressive over time.
    5. Virtually all American families, even
    low‑income families, pay taxes.
    6.There is a limit to what tax reform can
    accomplish.
    7.Individuals and the economy will feel
    every approach to tax reform.
    8.The benefits from tax expenditures are
    not equally shared.
    9.Cutting individual income tax rates would
    modestly increase the earnings of the
    typical American family while substantially
    increasing the federal budget deficit.
    10.Deficit-financed tax cuts do not spur
    economic growth in the long run.
    11.Corporate tax reform can improve U.S.
    competitiveness in several different ways—
    but not necessarily all at once.
    12. Addressing the deficit will require policy
    solutions equal to the size of the problem.

    Now here is a link and a quote: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/11/art2full.pdf
    Here’s a quote (charts and tables eliminated) from page 6 of government projections for the US economy 2006-2016, dated 2007 from the link: “Over the long run, consumer spending is determined primarily by the growth of real permanent income, demo¬graphic influences, and changes in relative prices. Personal consumption as a share of nominal GDP is projected to be 70.1 percent in 2016. Real consumer de¬mand is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent from 2006 to 2016. The importance of the relationship between GDP and personal consump¬tion expenditures also can be viewed from the perspective of the contribution of real personal consumption to the change in real GDP; such change provides a measure of the composition of growth in GDP.”


    After reading the the article,The Hamilton report, and the .gov report, if GDP ain’t increasing by that 2.9% , real consumer demand, who is willing to give up, and what can give up to establish a better income and revenue balance, when, where, how and why? If real permanent income for the majority of American citizens has effectively flat-lined for about the last forty years, and is effectively decreasing, what are real options, or is this state just the predicted and expected normal state of the US economy, regardless of tax compliance and regulation?
    The US is an income based, geographically based, religious denomination based, and racially based, class structured society. In fact US citizens are not equals in many different ways, and especially not equal in the US legal, or tax systems. That’s just the way societies are, the US is no exception to any other nation. We just like to promote the illusion that we are the exceptional society, or nation. Job opportunities exist in any geographical location, depending on time, who you are, what you are and who your friends are, and/or are not. Corporations and certain individuals in certain corporations keep the profits/money flowing within their circle of friends. Any monies that trickle out from that circle are the left overs, that everyone else chases.

  10. CommentedElizabeth Pula

    Could you clarify the first two sentences with specific statistical data? Is the"effective marginal rate" different than what most people generalize and think about in generalized terms as the: actual annual tax burden per IRS reports of amount of actual monies paid by significant and large multi-national corporations that are supposedly based and operating on US ground? Do corporate entities actually invest tax monies into new US investments? Isn't that more of a tax shelter to decrease annual actual tax monies paid that then affect public policy investment and public infrastructure development to better the public environment of all citizens? If the US public domestic policy is to in fact decrease revenues for internal domestic infrastructure then the US is headed to in fact establish a public infrastructure that will have the majority of citizens living a lifestyle similar to ??? Should the majority of US citizens live like the majority in Mubai and Rio de Janeiro?
    Effective tax rates on citizens earning less than $50,000 annually are higher than what most corporations today actually pay. Pensions funds and US citizens have been effectively required to pay higher taxes and assume losses because of corporate investments that are actually tax shields to allow profits to be assumed by individual human beings internationally. This transfer of monies to significant individuals (including subsequent corporate entities as individuals) rather than public infrastructure is what is hurting the US. The "subsequent corporate entities" even if they are supposedly "new US investments" are often times companies that are effectively sub-corporations that are used to skim profits as hedge funds and "private investors" repurchase spin-off businesses/corporations and then further shield profits, and sell the "shells" in re-packaged corporate entities to "delay" further tax payments, which then further delays any real revenues, so effectively there is NO revenue for public policy infrastructures. What you get is nothing for longterm public investment which is exactly what we are seeing now! You can only chase pieces on the monopoly board so long until none are left.

  11. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I apologize for opening up this theme a bit further, but the reason we do not find any solution to our economical, financial, political or social problems is that we always only look at the superficial details, certain localized problems, but we never actually examine the main, true causes.
    All our present problems come from the same root, from our basic, inherent human nature.
    Each and every human being is operated by the "maximum profit/minimum investment" principle.
    Both nationally or individually we are only interested in the "inflow", in other words "how much can I get for myself". If I get it for free it is the best, but most of the time I have to do some work, still the only motivation is how much I end up with at the end.
    Thus all our life is based on this, and since at the same time we are lumped together in societies, since we cannot survive on our own, a struggle starts. The society has to maintain itself somehow, it needs to get taxes, and other forms of payments from the individual so it can function in general, and the citizens pay, grudgingly, but they always second guess why and how much they have to pay, at the same time those responsible for collecting the payment are not always transparent or "righteous" and sometimes (quite a few times) the publicly collected money disappears, thus there is a continuous distrust, and people try to evade their tax or other payment duties, and the higher the person or corporation is on the ladders the most skillful they get in evading.
    So there is this constant "war", policing going on, and somebody is always unhappy in this system.
    The solution is simple but very difficult.
    We would need to rise above our inherent introverted, subjective nature, and first examine how we can benefit the whole, in order to keep it running, keep it performing absolutely optimally, and only after this should we make our own self calculations.
    But how could we change our own inherent nature? How could we motivate people to do so, that they willingly contribute to the whole ahead of their own benefit?!
    Only through education, only by making them understand that this is actually in their favor, since we live in such a global, integral society today, we are so intricately interconnected and interdependent, that I can only succeed, prosper, get healthy or build a future for myself, if the whole system is successful, prospers, and healthy.
    In the meantime the global crisis is already providing us with a negative motivation, our present system, the present way of life is gradually collapsing in front of our eyes, and there is no solution for pulling it back from the brink, since it is excessive, unnatural and unsustainable.
    Only through understanding based on objective, factual, and respected knowledge can we build a system which people choose willingly, by their free choice.

  12. CommentedTim Colgan

    Here is an idea for discussion. Instead of distinct taxation for capital gains - don’t tax it at all as long as it remains invested. When withdrawn for consumption, tax it at normal rates. This would sustain the incentive to keep investments in productive enterprises and generate tax income from those who consume.

    I’ve yet to hear this idea discussed. Why?

  13. CommentedA. T.

    Alternatively, charge taxes on goods sold within the jurisdiction, with the countries with the most valuable consumers (due to legal protections, infrastructure, etc.) being in a position to levy the highest tax rates. Same way that taxes on labour are charged according to where one sells one's labour, and on the revenues therefrom (rather than net of such 'operating expenses' as food, clothes, housing, transportation, etc.).

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