TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Halperin: Mitigating the Inequity of Reducing Corporate Tax Rates

Daniel Halperin (Harvard) has published Mitigating the Potential Inequity of Reducing Corporate Rates. Here is the abstract:

Since the statutory marginal U.S. income tax rate on corporate income is higher than the marginal rate imposed by all of our trading partners except Japan, there have been a number of proposals to reduce the U.S. marginal corporate rate. At the same time, it seems likely that the top individual rate will be increased. However, a differential between marginal corporate and individual rates could reduce the overall rate of tax on corporate distributions and enable higher-income taxpayers to shelter their income from services or investments. This paper suggests that we can mitigate these problems if the lower corporate rate is denied to income from services or passive investments and if there is always a second tax on distributed income. The latter requires reducing the step-up in basis at death and the deduction for charitable contributions by the amount of undistributed earnings to prevent taxpayers from permanently escaping tax on earnings retained in the corporation. Nonetheless lower corporate rates allow reinvested corporate profits to earn a permanent higher rate of return. Setting the combined individual and corporate rates on corporate distributions higher than the top individual rate offsets this advantage and also reduces the risk that corporations will be used to shelter income.

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