Thursday, August 28, 2014
13

El dilema del impuesto a las empresas

BERKELEY - Los Estados Unidos ahora tiene la mayor tasa tributaria a los ingresos corporativos de entre los países desarrollados. Incluso después de varias deducciones, créditos y otros beneficios impositivos, la tasa marginal efectiva (la que las corporaciones pagan sobre las nuevas inversiones estadounidenses) sigue siendo una de las más altas del mundo.

En un mundo de movilidad del capital, los impuestos a las empresas importan, y las decisiones empresariales sobre cómo y dónde invertir son cada vez más sensibles a las diferencias nacionales. La tasa relativamente alta de Estados Unidos anima a sus empresas a localizar su inversión, producción y empleo en países extranjeros, y desalienta a las empresas extranjeras a instalarse en EE.UU., implicando con ello un crecimiento más lento, menos puestos de trabajo, pequeños aumentos de la productividad y salarios reales más bajos.

Según la creencia popular, la carga tributaria de las empresas recae principalmente sobre los dueños del capital en forma de rendimientos más bajos. Pero, como el capital se ha vuelto más móvil, los trabajadores relativamente inmóviles deben padecer esta carga en mayor medida, en forma de salarios más bajos y menos oportunidades de empleo. Por eso los países de todo el mundo han estado recortando sus tasas de impuestos corporativos. La "carrera hacia el fondo" resultante refleja la intensificación de la competencia mundial por el capital y los conocimientos tecnológicos para apoyar el empleo y los salarios locales.

Más aún, una alta tasa de impuesto corporativo es una herramienta ineficaz y costosa de generar ingresos, debido a las transacciones financieras innovadoras y los mecanismos legales para eludir impuestos. La residencia legal de una empresa y sus fuentes geográficas de ingresos pueden ser y son manipuladas para tales fines, y los incentivos y las posibilidades para hacerlo son especialmente intensos en los sectores donde las ventajas competitivas dependen del capital intangible y el conocimiento, sectores que juegan un papel fundamental en la competitividad de la economía estadounidense.

Ante la falta de una estrecha y amplia cooperación internacional , EE.UU. debe unirse a la carrera y bajar sus impuestos corporativos. Una tasa más baja reforzaría los incentivos para la inversión y la creación de empleo a nivel interno y debilitaría los incentivos para la evasión fiscal. Asimismo, reduciría numerosas distorsiones a la eficiencia en el código fiscal de EE.UU., como sustanciales ventajas fiscales para la financiación de deuda por sobre el financiamiento del capital y para las empresas no corporativas por sobre las empresas corporativas.

Sin embargo, cada reducción de un punto porcentual en los impuestos a las empresas reduciría los ingresos federales en alrededor de $ 12 mil millones por año. Estas pérdidas se podrían compensar mediante la reducción de los llamados "gastos de impuestos corporativos" -deducciones, créditos y otras disposiciones fiscales especiales que subvencionan algunas actividades económicas en detrimento de otras - y la ampliación de la base de impuestos corporativos. Tanto el plan del presidente Barack Obama para la reforma a los impuestos a las empresas como el plan Simpson-Bowles de reducción del déficit proponen la reducción de esos gastos para cubrir una baja en la tasa de impuestos corporativos.

Los gastos de impuestos corporativos disminuyen la base imponible, elevan el coste del cumplimiento tributario y distorsionan las decisiones sobre los proyectos de inversión, cómo financiarlos, qué forma de organización empresarial adoptar y dónde producir. Como Michael Greenstone y Adam Looney muestran en un informe recién publicado, las diferencias resultantes en las tasas impositivas efectivas para los diferentes tipos de actividad empresarial son significativas.

Dicho esto, si el objetivo de la reforma fiscal para las empresas es aumentar la inversión y la creación de empleo, podría ser contraproducente ampliar una base tributaria que deba pagar una tarifa más baja. La eliminación de los "intereses especiales", como las exenciones fiscales para el petróleo y el gas, o para los aviones corporativos, no produciría ingresos suficientes para compensar una reducción importante de la tasa. Y reducir la depreciación acelerada, la deducción de la producción manufacturera y el crédito fiscal a la I + D (que representan aproximadamente el 80% de los gastos de impuestos corporativos) implicaría sacrificar algunas cosas importantes.

De hecho, eliminar estos elementos para "compensar" una reducción en la tasa de impuestos corporativos podría terminar por aumentar el impuesto a la actividad económica empresarial en EE.UU. Eliminar la depreciación acelerada de los equipos aumentaría la tasa efectiva de los impuestos sobre nuevas inversiones; derogar la deducción de la producción interna aumentaría la tasa tributaria efectiva sobre el sector manufacturero de EE.UU., y rescindir el crédito fiscal de I + D podría acabar por reducir la inversión en innovación.

En lugar de recortar incentivos fiscales a la inversión que han demostrado su utilidad, EE.UU. debería compensar al menos parte de los menores ingresos que percibiría como consecuencia de una tasa de impuestos corporativos más baja al aumentarlas sobre los accionistas de las empresas. La mayoría de los países que han reducido sus tasas de impuestos corporativos han seguido este camino, mientras que EE.UU. ha hecho lo contrario.

En un 15%, las tasas de impuestos de Estados Unidos sobre los dividendos y las ganancias de capital se encuentran en mínimos históricos, mientras que la proporción de las utilidades en la renta nacional está en su punto más alto. Los defensores de las tasas más bajas para los propietarios del capital argumentan que minimizan la "doble" tributación corporativa (primero a las empresas y luego a sus accionistas). Una menor tasa de impuestos corporativos podría debilitar esta justificación. Más aún, los fondos de pensiones, los planes de jubilación y las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, que reciben alrededor del 50% de todos los dividendos corporativos, no pagan impuestos sobre esos ingresos y se beneficiarían de una menor tasa de impuestos corporativos.

A pesar de que los impuestos individuales sobre la renta de las corporaciones reduciría el retorno después de impuestos a los ahorros, tienen menos efectos distorsionadores sobre el lugar de inversión de los que poseen los impuestos corporativos, y son más propensos a recaer en los propietarios del capital que en los trabajadores. Más aún, es mucho más fácil recaudar impuestos de los ciudadanos individuales y los accionistas residentes que de las corporaciones multinacionales. Apple puede usar técnicas sofisticadas para manipular la ubicación de su renta corporativa, pero cada ciudadano estadounidense que posee acciones de Apple tendrá que notificar los dividendos y las ganancias de capital que obtenga de ellas en su renta global.

Un estudio reciente determinó que aplicar impuestos a las ganancias de capital y los dividendos como ingresos ordinarios, sujetos a una tasa máxima del 28% sobre las ganancias de capital a largo plazo (la tasa previa a 1997), podría financiar una reducción de la tasa de impuestos corporativos del 35% al 26 %. Un cambio así reduciría los incentivos de las corporaciones a mover inversiones al extranjero o cambiar sus utilidades a jurisdicciones con impuestos bajos, al tiempo que aumenta la progresividad de la recaudación al hacer pasar más de la carga tributaria de las corporaciones desde la fuerza de trabajo a los propietarios del capital.

Muchos votantes estadounidenses que creen que las empresas no pagan una parte justa de impuestos y están preocupados por la creciente desigualdad de los ingresos se sentirían atraídos por un aumento en la tasa de impuestos corporativos. Pero, en un mundo de movilidad del capital, elevarla (o, simplemente, dejarla en su nivel actual)  sería una mala manera de generar ingresos, una mala manera de aumentar la progresividad del sistema tributario, y una mala manera de ayudar a los mismos trabajadores estadounidenses.

Traducido del inglés por David Meléndez Tormen

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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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