Having grown up during the Cold War, I never though I would write a sentence like the title of this blog post, but there have been lots of firsts during the reign of Obama.
When the head of a major multinational company says the American tax system is worse than the policy of a nation that is nominally still communist, that’s a remarkable – and worrisome – development.
Here’s an excerpt from a story in the UK-based Financial Times.
Coca-Cola now sees the US becoming a less friendly business environment than China, its chief executive has revealed, citing political gridlock and an antiquated tax structure as reasons its home market has become less competitive. Muhtar Kent, Coke’s chief executive, said “in many respects” it was easier doing business in China, which he likened to a well-managed company. “You have a one-stop shop in terms of the Chinese foreign investment agency and local governments are fighting for investment with each other,” he told the Financial Times. Mr Kent also pointed to Brazil as an example of an emerging economy that is making itself attractive to investment in ways that the US once did.
As much as I criticize the U.S. tax system and notwithstanding the passage you just read, I wouldn’t want anyone to conclude that China has better economic policy. The United States may have become more statist in the past decade, dropping from 3rd to 10th in the Economic Freedom of the World rankings, but 10th place is still a heck of a lot better than 92nd place, which is where China currently ranks.
And I also think it’s important to draw a distinction between a nation being “business friendly” and “market friendly.” I strongly prefer the latter. I want small government and laissez-faire markets, not policies that cater to big business. And some of China’s development is based on special deals for large companies.
This is not a big knock on China, which has improved. It used to rank as one of the 10th-worst nations, so gradual economic liberalization is boosting its economy and has lifted hundreds of millions out of absolute poverty (as compared to the relatively benign poverty found in the U.S.).
But even with those caveats, it’s not a good thing that America’s corporate tax system is so unfriendly. And it’s not a good thing that investors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and others have a perception that it’s better to produce outside of America.
For more information, here are two of my videos. This one (my very first effort, so forgive the lack of polish) discusses the overall issue of corporate taxation.
And here’s a video that looks at the critical issue of international corporate taxation. You won’t be surprised to learn that America probably has the most unfriendly regime in the world.
One last thing worth mentioning is that most European governments have territorial tax systems and the average corporate tax rate in “socialist” Europe is down to 23 percent.