Thursday, March 4, 2021
Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan; Google Scholar) presents A New Corporate Tax, 168 Tax Notes Fed. 653 (July 27, 2020), virtually at Indiana today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:
This article will argue that we should tax corporations for the same reason we originally adopted the corporate tax in 1909: to limit the power and regulate the behavior of our largest corporations, which are monopolies or quasi-monopolies that dominate their respective fields and drive their competitors out of business (the best example being Big Tech — that is, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft). But if that is the reason to have a corporate tax, it should have a different structure from the current flat corporate tax of 21 percent. Instead, the tax should be set at zero for normal returns by allowing the expensing of physical capital, but at a sharply progressive rate for supernormal returns (rents).
This article has sought to develop a new corporate tax that is appropriate for targeting rents earned by large, monopolistic, or quasimonopolistic enterprises like Big Tech. Its main recommendations are that normal corporate returns be functionally exempt by allowing permanent expensing for capital expenditures, but that supernormal returns be taxable progressively (up to 80 percent above $10 billion in profit) and on a broad base that (a) includes foreign subsidiaries, (b) disallows current R&D and interest deductions, and (c) limits deductions for stock-based compensation to value on date of grant.
Also, I recommend a mark-to-market regime for shareholders as well as full taxation of dividends at a progressive rate of 50 percent, but would allow for tax-free split-ups. These steps should complement antitrust enforcement to bring our large monopolies down to a normal size, without creating deadweight loss.