Wednesday, January 25, 2012
When double taxation of investment income is taken into account, Mr. Romney most likely underestimated his effective tax rate on the campaign trail. The former Bain Capital CEO and Massachusetts governor caused a brouhaha last week when he estimated the tax rate on his investment income at 15%. "How unfair!" pundits exclaimed, noting that the top marginal rate for wage income is more than 30%.
The tax rate on investors is unfair, but for the opposite reason. Our tax code layers taxation of dividends and capital gains on top of a top corporate tax rate of 35%—which even President Obama acknowledges is one of the highest in the world.
This is ironically the embodiment of the "corporate personhood" legal doctrine otherwise so decried by the left. The law taxes corporations as if they were separate beings from the shareholders who own them and then levies a separate tax on shareholder payouts and gains. This double taxation brings the effective tax rate on investment income to as much as 44.75%.
In other words, after the combined top tax rates hit $100 of corporate income, $55.25 remains for the investor. And this figure doesn't even include various state and local taxes, or the death tax. ...If the traditional disclosure of tax returns is elevated into a "teachable moment" about the burdens of double taxation, all Americans could be winners.