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Archive for June 20th, 2010

The United States has the world’s worst corporate tax system, with a job-killing tax rate of about 40 percent. In the European Union, the average rate is about 25 percent, but that’s just one part of the world that is moving in the right direction. My Cato colleague recently did a blog post about Taiwan’s politicians lowering that nation’s corporate tax rate to 17 percent. Now Tax-news.com is reporting that Ukraine’s government is doing something similar, reducing the corporate tax rate from 25 percent to 17 percent.

Ukraine’s new Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov has announced his government’s intention, in a revised tax code, to slash the country’s corporate income tax rate starting 2011, and then further on a transitional basis through 2014 to enhance the nation’s economic performance and fiscal attractiveness. According to the Prime Minister, the corporate income tax will be cut from 25% to 20% in 2011, and cut 1% annually from then on, until 2014 when the rate will stand at 17%. The Value Added Tax is to also to be reduced on a progressive basis over a similar timescale. Explaining the government’s methodology, Azarov was quoted by the national radio station NCRU as saying: “This innovative document is a real tax reform that will improve the investment climate in Ukraine and will improve the nation’s attractiveness for conducting business.”

It’s worth noting that a low corporate tax rate is not a silver bullet for an economy with other bad policies. Ukraine has one of the world’s most repressive economies, so reducing the corporate tax rate is just one of many reforms that is needed. But, all other things being equal, lower tax rates always are a good idea.

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I’m sure a lot of statist will be horrified by this story from the west coast, but they’ve probably never had to deal with aggressive bums that make a career out of mooching. The economics in this story are rather straightforward: If you make it easier for people to be bums, more people will be bums. There are separate, and much more challenging issues about people on the streets who are mentally unbalanced, but I strong suspect a strong majority of bums are not in that category.

A sticker with the phrase “Please don’t feed our bums” is stuck on storefronts around Ocean Beach and is based on satire of The National Park Service’s “Please don’t feed the bears” sticker. The sticker is also bringing a serious message. “People who live and work in the area know how it feels to be harassed by these people,” said Chaz Lomack, who works at an Ocean Beach business. The stickers are targeting a new group of homeless — young aggressive panhandlers who choose not to work and ask for money instead. …An employee at an Ocean Beach store called The Black started carrying the stickers two weeks ago. Ken Anderson, who did not want to be interviewed on camera, said the stickers were meant to make the community realize the homeless population has become out of control. “A lot of these kids have cell phones and they come from well-off families,” said Lomack. There have even been reports of violence against people who do not give the homeless money. “We don’t want them to do that because it is just enabling them to do their thing,” said Lomack.

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One of my main issues at the Cato Institute (and one of the reasons I was a founder of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity) is protecting and promoting fiscal sovereignty. I don’t want international bureaucracies such as the United Nations or Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development telling nations what kind of tax systems they’re allowed to have – especially since those bureaucracies want to undermine tax competition in order to prop up high-tax welfare states. While I realize international tax issues are not that exciting, there is an excellent column in the Wall Street Journal Europe that shows the negative impact when nations (in this case, the United States) seek to tax economic activity in other nations. When foreigners no longer want to invest in America and when Americans are compelled into giving up U.S. citizenship, that’s a sign of a bad tax code:

American expatriates are fast becoming the world’s financial refugees. Onerous legislation from the U.S. government is making it too difficult – and too expensive – for banks to service U.S. citizens that live abroad. …An increasing number are taking the most drastic step and renouncing their citizenship. …bankers, lawyers and accountants are waking up to the wider implications of the new rules. American expats, it seems, may only be the first to suffer. …Foreign banks are, in effect, being asked to act as the international enforcement arms of the Internal Revenue Service. Those banks that don’t comply will be subject to a 30% withholding tax on all payments made to them in the U.S. Many banks and wealth managers have decided it is far easier to politely show their U.S. clients the door. Earlier this month, the law firm Withers conducted a survey of bankers, accountants, independent financial advisers, trust companies and other private client advisors to analyze the impact of the HIRE Act. Over half said they have seen instances where Americans were denied investment and banking services in the last two years. And 95% expect this to increase as a result of the HIRE Act. …The U.S. government already taxes expatriate citizens on their worldwide income regardless of where it is earned or where they live, making them the only people in the developed world who are taxed in both their country of citizenship and country of residence. …there has been an explosion in the time it takes us to keep U.S. expat clients compliant with the U.S. tax regime. He says that their bills have “at least doubled” in the past couple of years. …A number of banks decided that the concept of U.S. citizenship was too nebulous for them to police. Darlene Hart, the chief executive of U.S. Tax & Financial Services says that when the rule came out in 2001 many of her U.S. clients received letters from their wealth managers telling them that their investment portfolios had been liquidated. Now a second wave of banks – especially in Switzerland but increasingly in the UK and the Channel Islands – are closing their doors to Americans because of the added burden of the HIRE Act. …What then are U.S. expats to do if even more banks cut them adrift as a result of those reviews? A small but growing number have decided that the best way to avoid the rules is to hand in their passports. According to U.S. government figures, twice as many Americans renounced their citizenship in the last quarter of 2009 than in the whole of 2008. The numbers are still only in the hundreds but are expected to rise now that the HIRE Act has been signed. Ms. Hart says the last time she checked it was not possible to get an appointment at the U.S. embassy in London to renounce citizenship until 2012. In Bern, you couldn’t get an appointment until June next year. …Those that don’t want to take such a drastic step can move their investments back to the U.S. However, this can be tricky without an address in the U.S. because of the Patriot Act, which tightened up the procedures by which banks verify their clients’ identities. …although it is the U.S. expats that are suffering the most at the moment, the impact of the new law could eventually be felt far more widely. The banks that sign up to the new rules are likely to pay for the required upgrades to their systems by increasing the bank fees for their rest of their customers. And eventually the reverberations from the HIRE Act may also be felt back in the U.S. …Nearly three-quarters of respondents to the Withers survey said they expected to see investment into the U.S. decrease in the coming years because of the HIRE Act. Wegelin & Co. is, for one, advising its clients to exit all direct investments in U.S. securities.

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