Monday, September 27, 2010
[T]he President's plan reveals how out of touch Democrats are with the real world of tax competition. The U.S. already has one of the most punitive corporate tax regimes in the world and this tax increase would make that competitive disadvantage much worse, accelerating the very outsourcing of jobs that Mr. Obama says he wants to reverse.
At issue is how the government taxes American firms that make money overseas. Under current tax law, American companies pay the corporate tax rate in the host country where the subsidiary is located and then pay the difference between the U.S. rate (35%) and the foreign rate when they bring profits back to the U.S. This is called deferral—i.e., the U.S. tax is deferred until the money comes back to these shores.
Most countries do not tax the overseas profits of their domestic companies. Mr. Obama's plan would apply the U.S. corporate tax on overseas profits as soon as they are earned. This is intended to discourage firms from moving operations out of the U.S.
The real problem is a U.S. corporate tax rate that over the last 15 years has become a huge competitive disadvantage. The only major country with a higher statutory rate is Japan, and even its politicians are debating a reduction. A May 2010 study by University of Calgary economists Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz for the Cato Institute using World Bank data finds that the effective combined U.S. federal and state tax rate on new capital investment, taking into account all credits and deductions, is 35%. The OECD average is 19.5% and the world average is 18%. ...
The lesson here is that tax rates matter in a world of global competition and the U.S. tax regime is hurting American companies and workers. Mr. Obama would add to the damage. His election-eve campaign to raise taxes on American companies making money overseas may not be his most dangerous economic idea, but it is right up there.