I was a bit surprised couple of years ago to read that an American company re-located to Canada to benefit from better tax policy.
But I wasn’t totally shocked by the news because Canada has been lowering tax rates, reducing the burden of government spending, and taking other steps to make its economy more competitive.
But I am downright stunned to learn that America’s high corporate tax rate is such an outlier that companies are even moving to welfare states such as the United Kingdom.
Here are some excerpts from a story in the Wall Street Journal.
More big U.S. companies are reincorporating abroad despite a 2004 federal law that sought to curb the practice. One big reason: Taxes. Companies cite various reasons for moving, including expanding their operations and their geographic reach. But tax bills remain a primary concern. … Aon plc…relocated to the U.K. in April. Aon has told analysts it expects to reduce its tax rate, which averaged 28% over the past five years, by five percentage points over time, which could boost profits by about $100 million annually. Since 2009, at least 10 U.S. public companies have moved their incorporation address abroad or announced plans to do so, including six in the last year or so, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of company filings and statements. …Eaton, a 101-year-old Cleveland-based maker of components and electrical equipment, announced in May that it would acquire Cooper Industries PLC, another electrical-equipment maker that had moved to Bermuda in 2002 and then to Ireland in 2009. It plans to maintain factories, offices and other operations in the U.S. while moving its place of incorporation—for now—to the office of an Irish law firm in downtown Dublin. …Eaton’s chief executive, Alexander Cutler, has been a vocal critic of the corporate tax code. “We have too high a domestic rate and we have a thoroughly uncompetitive international tax regime,” Mr. Cutler said on CNBC in January. …In moving from Dallas to the U.K. in 2009, Ensco followed rivals such as Transocean Ltd., Noble Corp. and Weatherford International Ltd. that had relocated outside the U.S. The company said the move would help it achieve “a tax rate comparable to that of some of Ensco’s global competitors.”
Wow. I can understand moving to Ireland, with its 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, but I wouldn’t have thought that the U.K.’s 24 percent rate was overly attractive.
But compared to the punitive 35 percent rate in the United States, I guess 24 percent doesn’t look that bad.
So what’s the solution? The obvious answer is to lower the corporate tax rate. But it also would help to eliminate worldwide taxation, as noted in the article.
Lawmakers of both parties have said the U.S. corporate tax code needs a rewrite and they are aiming to try next year. One shared source of concern is the top corporate tax rate of 35%—the highest among developed economies. By comparison, Ireland’s rate is 12.5%. …Critics of the tax code also say it puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage because it taxes their profits earned abroad. Most developed countries tax only domestic earnings. While executives would welcome a lower tax rate and an end to global taxation, some worry their tax bills could rise under other measures that could be included in a tax-overhaul package.
Both Obama and Romney have said that they favor a slightly lower corporate rate, but I’m skeptical about their true intentions. In any event, neither one of them is talking about a low rate, perhaps 15 percent of below.
For more information, here’s my video on corporate taxation.
And the issue of worldwide taxation may sound arcane, but this video explains why it also is important.
Let’s close by noting that there are two obstacles to pro-growth reform. First, any good reform will deprive politicians of tax revenue. And since they’ve spent the country into a fiscal ditch, that makes it very difficult to enact legislation that – at least on paper – means less money flowing to Washington.
Second, politicians are very reluctant to lower tax rates on groups that can be demagogued, such as “rich people” and “big corporations.” This is the destructive mentality that drives class-warfare tax policy.
So America faces a choice. Jobs, investment, and growth or big government, class warfare, and stagnation. The solution should be obvious…unless you’re a politicians interested in preserving power in Washington.
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