Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

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We’re been through this before (e.g., here and here). But no matter. Let’s take it up again.

Even as the overwhelming evidence is U.S. corporate taxes have been decreasing and workers’ wages have also been falling (both, in the chart at top of the post, as a percentage of gross domestic income), there are still those who try to convince us corporate taxes should be lowered still further—and workers are the ones who will benefit.

Really?!

I know. It goes against all logic (and, as it turns out, the empirical evidence). But, according to Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute, lowering corporate taxes is the only real cure for wage stagnation among American workers.

They’re right about wage stagnation (although they miss the declining share of national income going to workers). But lowering corporate taxes is not going to solve that problem. Raising workers’ wages will.

I wrote above that it was against all logic. Actually, it is consistent with the logic of neoclassical economics, which goes as follows: capital moves to or stays in lower tax zones (states or countries), which boosts the productivity of workers (who are not as mobile), which in turn leads to higher wages (since the presumption is workers are paid according to their productivity). And, on the reverse side, if corporate taxes go up (as some, like me, have argued they should), corporations will shift the burden of the tax to workers, who will then be paid less.

The holes in the logic are, to use the current vernacular, HUUGE. Where corporations decide to realize their profits may shift according to tax rates but that doesn’t mean capital itself moves to those zones. Even if capital moves, it can often replace workers (or leading to the hiring of other, lower-waged workers). And, even if workers become more productive, they’re not necessarily paid more.

And then there’s the evidence—or lack thereof. As Kimberly Clausing explains, “a review of the prior empirical work in this area fails to reveal persuasive empirical evidence of adverse effects on labor.” And that’s because of globalization itself:

First, if corporations are mere intermediaries in global capital markets in which a wide assortment of investors with different tax treatments invest, tax policy changes could affect the ownership and financing patterns of assets more than they affect the aggregate level of investment in different countries. Second, since multinational firms have become increasingly adept at separating the reporting of income from the true location of the underlying economic activities, international tax avoidance itself comes with a silver lining. Mobile firms move profits without needing to substantially alter the underlying investments, whereas immobile firms do not respond like the open-economy actors of modern corporate tax incidence models. In both cases, workers in high-tax countries are relatively insulated from adverse wage effects due to capital reallocation toward low-tax countries.

So, if the logic is faulty and the empirical evidence questionable, what’s left? Merely one more attempt to lower the tax burden on corporations—and thus put private profits even more out of the reach of public claims on those profits.

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The usual argument in the United States, one we’ve been hearing again (and again and again) in the current presidential campaign, is that a decrease in tax rates at the top will help everyone. Growth, inequality, basic fairness—all will be improved if only American politicians would agree to lower tax rates on large corporations and wealthy individuals.

Mark Thoma [ht: ja], as mainstream an economist as there is, takes up all the basic arguments in favor of decreasing taxes and demonstrates how wrong they are. Each and every one.

Here’s the list (readers can look at the column for the details):

>Increasing taxes on the wealthy will harm economic growth.

>Increasing taxes on the wealthy won’t solve the income inequality problem.

>Tax increases will blunt the incentive to invest in new businesses.

>The wealthy will move to other countries to avoid the tax increase.

>Increasing taxes on the wealthy won’t increase tax revenue.

>Less will be donated to private charities.

>The wealthy deserve what they earn.

>It’s a tax on small businesses.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.

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Not a single one of those arguments holds up. The only significant result of lowering the top Federal income tax rate is to increase inequality, which is exactly what we’ve seen in the United States for the past five decades.

As Thoma concludes,

Arguments about the size of government and the taxes needed to support the many things that government does are certainly fair game for politicians. But the argument that tax increases on the wealthy will cause substantial harm to the economy does not withstand a close look at the evidence.

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Donald Trump won’t reveal his income-tax returns. However, even as he claims he’s worth $10 billion, Fortune estimates his wealth at $4.5 billion and last year’s financial-disclosure report to the SEC reveals his assets more in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. So, the scandal in this case may be that Trump is worth a great deal but he pays few taxes and may actually be worth much less than he claims.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has made her income-tax returns public (so we know that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made almost $28 million in 2014). But we have little information about the donations to and the activities of the key family enterprise, the Clinton Foundation.

However, that may soon change. Charles Ortel [ht: ra] has apparently set his sights on the “largest unprosecuted charity fraud ever attempted.”

According to Ortel, in his “Third Follow-up Letter to Donors, Charity Regulators, Investigative Journalists and Citizens Worldwide,”

The Clinton Foundation, directed by certain individuals and together with numerous affiliates, has been part of an international charity fraud network whose entire cumulative scale (counting inflows and outflows) approaches and may even exceed $100 billion, measured from 1997 forward.

Yet, state, federal, and foreign government authorities, that should be keenly aware of this massive set of criminal frauds, so far, move at a snail’s pace, perhaps waiting for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reveal the scope of its work and the nature of any findings.

This presidential election campaign promises to have financial scandals burning on both ends.

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The folks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have analyzed the distributional effects of the tax-cut plans proposed by Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Here’s what they found (for 2025, when their plans would be fully implemented):

  • Just 0.8 percent of the population would live in households with incomes exceeding $1 million, but such households would receive 38 percent of the Trump tax cuts. This would be greater than the share of the tax cuts (32 percent) that the bottom 80 percent of the population would receive.
  • Millionaires would receive 47 percent of the Cruz tax cuts, or more than double the share of the tax cuts (19 percent) the bottom 80 percent of the population would receive. In fact, under the Cruz plan, millionaires would receive a larger share of the tax cuts than the bottom 95 percent of the population.

Even more:

  • The richest 0.1 percent of the population (those with annual incomes exceeding $5.2 million in 2016 dollars) would receive tax cuts averaging $1.4 million under Trump and $1.8 million under Cruz. Under both plans, this segment of the population would receive significantly larger percentage increases in after-tax income (18 percent and 23 percent, respectively) than any other group.
  • These households would receive 18 percent of the tax cuts under the Trump plan—more than the plan’s combined tax cuts for the bottom 60 percent of the population. Under the Cruz plan, these multi-millionaires would receive 23 percent of the tax cuts, a larger share of the tax cuts than the bottom 80 percent of the population would receive.

 

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