Monday, April 9, 2012

We’re #1! U.S. Officially Has the Top Corporate Tax Rate. Or Not

Americans are infatuated with the superlative. We are constitutionally drawn to the best, the biggest, the most. But few of us rejoiced at the news that as of April 1st, the United States had assumed the title of having the highest corporate tax rate in the world. The dubious feat was widely reported after Japan officially lowered its headline corporate tax rate Sunday from 39.5% to 38.01% — below the U.S.’s average combined federal-state rate of 39.2%.

The occasion gave low-tax advocates the opportunity to complain about the burdensome American tax regime and its deleterious effects on investment, growth, and employment. Those on the left countered that the effective corporate tax rate, or taxes paid after loopholes are factored in, is actually much lower than 39.2%. Indeed, by one measure, corporations only paid an effective rate of 12.1% in 2011, although that phenomenon was a product of temporary tax credits for investment.

So are corporate taxes in America relatively burdensome, or does big business not pay its fair share? A quick Google search on the subject will produce such a broad and conflicting array of statements and figures to make even the most dedicated policy wonk’s head spin. The unfortunate truth is that tax policy is so nuanced that it’s difficult to make clear-cut statements as to the relative onerousness of tax policy between countries. Indeed, even the corporate tax figure used in the media to report this story is a rough estimate. The 39.2% headline rate being reported in the press is the federal rate of 35% plus the average corporate tax rate of the individual states, which vary widely. Effective rates for individual corporations will differ greatly depending on a company’s industry and home state, among other factors. Read more.......


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