This story from Business Week warmed my heart. Switzerland’s cantons are competing to create better tax policy, and this is attracting companies seeking to escape the kleptocracies elsewhere in Europe. This shows the value of tax competition (imagine how bad taxes would be in Germany and France if politicians in those nations didn’t have to worry about taxpayers escaping over the border) and the benefits of federalism (unlike the United States, Switzerland has not made the mistake of letting the central government becoming the dominant force in fiscal policy).
“Low corporate taxes will help Switzerland attract business, but it’s also creating tension as European governments seek revenue to plug their fiscal deficits.” said Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers in Dublin. Switzerland reported a fiscal surplus last year, and cantons from Zurich to Schwyz are lowering taxes. “There is still a clear downward trend in taxation,” said Martin Eichler, head of research at BakBasel, an economic consulting firm in Basel, Switzerland. “There is pressure to be attractive to companies and the cantons are saying that if we have to save somewhere, then it won’t be on tax.” Swiss corporate tax rates, including a federal rate of 8.5 percent, range from 11.8 percent in the town of Pfaeffikon in Schwyz to 24.2 percent in Geneva, according to tax consultant Mattig-Suter & Partner. That compares with a corporate tax rate of 28 percent in the U.K. and 35 percent in the U.S. Vaud, running east along the lake from Geneva to Montreux, persuaded Shire Plc to set up an office last month with the help of tax relief on its corporate rate of 23.5 percent, said Eric Maire, the canton’s senior project director for economic promotion. That follows the March decision of Ineos Group Holdings Plc to relocate from its U.K. base. …Tax increases in the U.K. played a “key role” in persuading firms such as BlueCrest Capital Management and Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP to shift part of their London-based operations to Geneva, said Loeffler. Smaller cantons want to emulate Zug, which used a tax rate of 15.8 percent to more than double its number of registered companies to 29,134 since 1990. The canton is home to miner Xstrata Plc and Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore oil and gas driller.