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Archive for the ‘Tax Competition’ Category

A big division among economists is whether taxes have a big or small impact on incentives.

If taxpayers are very responsive, that means more economic damage (to use the profession’s jargon, a greater level of deadweight loss).

If you’re wondering which economists are right, there’s a lot of evidence that taxpayers are sensitive to changes in tax rates, Especially upper-income taxpayers, in part because they have significant control over the timing, levels, and composition of their income.

This is why entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, and investors respond to difference in tax rates.

And athletes also make decisions based on tax policy. Here’s a tweet about Tyreek Hill, one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League. When deciding which team to sign with for this year, he picked the Miami Dolphins, located in a state with no income tax.

Mr. Hill also had the option to sign with the New York Jets.

But that would have meant letting greedy politicians in either New York or New Jersey (where the Jets play their home games) grab almost 11 percent of each additional dollar he earns.

According to this map, star athletes should be big fans of gray states and steer clear of dark-brown (or is that maroon?) states.

There’s research, incidentally, showing that teams based in low-tax states actually win more games.

P.S. I’ll close by reiterating my caveat about taxes being just one piece of the puzzle. After all, I speculated many years ago that taxes may have played a role in LeBron James going from Cleveland to Miami. But he then migrated to high-tax California. Though many pro athletes have moved away from the not-so-Golden States, so the general points is still accurate.

P.P.S. I feel sorry for Cam Newton, who paid a marginal tax rate of nearly 200 percent on his bonus for playing in the 2016 Super Bowl.

P.P.P.S. Taxes also impact choices on how often to box and where to box.

P.P.P.P.S. Needless to say, these principles also apply in other nations.

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I’ve written many times about the importance of low tax rates, specifically low marginal tax rates on productive activity such as work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship.

And I’ve explained that it is especially beneficial to have low tax burdens to attract people who play a big role in boosting economic growth.

The bottom line is that everyone should want their state or their country to be a magnet for the best and brightest.

Having more highly successful people is a great shortcut for boosting everyone’s income.

Today, we’re going to look at more evidence on this topic. In a working paper for the Harvard Business School, Sari Pekkala Kerr, Çağlar Özden, William Kerr, and Christopher Parsons examine the migratory patterns of highly skilled workers.

Highly skilled workers play a central and starring role in today’s knowledge economy. Talented individuals make exceptional direct contributions—including breakthrough innovations and scientific discoveries… The exceptional rise in the number of high-skilled migrants to OECD countries is the result of several forces, including increased efforts to attract them by policymakers as they recognize the central role of human capital in economic growth… For example, immigrants account for some 57 percent of scientists residing in Switzerland, 45 percent in Australia, and 38 percent in the United States (Franzoni et al. 2012). In the United States, 27 percent of all physicians and surgeons and over 35 percent of current medical residents were foreign born in 2010. …the global migration rate of inventors in 2000 stood at 8.6 percent, at least 50 percent greater in share terms than the average for high-skilled workers as a whole.

In the contest to attract skilled migrants, some nations do a better jobs than others.

…among OECD destinations, the distribution of talent remains skewed. Four Anglo-Saxon countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia—constitute the destination for nearly 70 percent of high-skilled migrants (to the OECD) in 2010. The United States alone has historically hosted close to half of all high-skilled migrants to the OECD and one-third of high-skilled migrants worldwide.

Here’s a chart looking specifically at inventors.

So why do some nations get disproportionate numbers of skilled migrants.

As you might suspect, these highly productive people want to earn more money. And keep more money.

The core theoretical framework for studying human capital flows dates back to at least John Hicks (1932), who noted that “differences in net economic advantages, chiefly differences in wages, are the main causes of migration.” …the United States has a very wide earnings distribution and low tax levels and progressivity, especially compared to most source countries, including many high-income European countries. As a result, we can see why the United States would attract more high-skilled migrants, relative to low-skilled migrants and relative to other high-income countries.

Notice, by the way, that low-tax Singapore and low-tax Switzerland also are big winners in the above chart. Indeed, they may be ahead of the United States after adjusting for population.

The obvious takeaway is that the United States should not throw away its competitive advantage. Yet another reason to reject Joe Biden’s class-warfare fiscal agenda.

 

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As part of my continuing efforts to derail Biden’s global minimum tax on businesses (here’s Part I and Part II), I explain the downsides of the president’s plan in this clip from a recent interview.

If you don’t want to spend three minutes to watch the above video, my views are summarized by this excerpt from an interview with the BBC.

Simply stated, politicians want to grab more money from businesses.

But let’s not forget that taxes on companies are actually paid by workers, consumers, and shareholders.

We do have some good news. Hungary is stopping, at least temporarily, the European Union from embracing its version of a minimum tax.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, a member of that nation’s parliament explains his government’s position.

Adopting the European Commission’s minimum-tax directive now would be a profound mistake. …The EU directive, proposed by the European Commission in December 2021, aims to introduce a 15% minimum tax rate, effective Jan. 1, 2023…the current proposal would increase the tax burden on European manufacturers, which drive economic growth. The directive would need to be unanimously agreed by 27 EU member states to take effect. Hungary can’t support a proposal that would hurt the weakened European economy… Adopting the directive would hit Central European economies the hardest by damaging their favorable tax systems, a key competitive advantage over their Western European counterparts. …Hungary’s ability to set its own fiscal policies in this crisis is indispensable. To protect our competitiveness and sovereignty, the Hungarian National Assembly passed a resolution prohibiting the government from agreeing to implement a global minimum tax.

Let’s be thankful that Hungary said no.

But I’m still very worried, for two reasons.

  • First, the column focuses on why it would be a very bad idea to impose a global tax cartel during the current period of economic turmoil. That’s true, but it implies that it might be acceptable to impose a global minimum tax at some other point. That’s definitely not the case.
  • Second, it’s bad news that other nations – such as Ireland, Estonia, and Luxembourg – didn’t side with Hungary (Ireland’s capitulation is particularly disappointing).

Since we’re discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of a global minimum tax, let’s look at what others have written about the idea.

Aharon Friedman and Joshua Rauh opined against the concept of a global minimum corporate tax in an article for Fox News.

…the administration is conspiring at the OECD to stifle tax competition across the globe by effectively requiring all countries to impose similarly high tax rates. …teaming up with the OECD to be the world’s tax policeman would be disastrous for many reasons. …a global minimum tax would have to feature very detailed rules over every aspect of taxation, from cost recovery, losses, and interest deductibility, to tax incentives such as R&D and what kinds of businesses must be subject to the tax in the first place. The scheme would shift enormous power to the OECD Secretariat, which would start to look like the world’s IRS Commissioner. This would also be a backdoor through which to further strip tax lawmaking from Congress and place it in the hands of Treasury and its foreign counterparts. …The Biden administration is trying force countries across the world to adopt its own preference for high taxes on corporate income regardless of the effect on employment and wages.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized against this scheme last year.

Ignore the back-slapping about revenues and “fairness.” This deal is bad news for economies recovering from the pandemic, and especially the U.S. …Officials and progressive activists say they’re halting a global “race to the bottom” on corporate taxes. We’re glad they finally concede that tax rates matter to decisions about investment and job creation, since the left has denied this for decades. But the real action has been on tax policy competition, which has been instrumental to economic growth, innovation and job creation since the 1980s. The OECD plan will throttle that competition. That’s because, while the G-7 agreement focuses on the headline rate for the new minimum tax, the OECD plan comes with reams of harmonized fine print… Suppressing tax competition is the main reason the Biden Administration broke with Washington’s long, bipartisan tradition of opposing a global minimum tax. …American workers, consumers and shareholders will pay the price.

Writing for CapX, Kai Weiss warns that a global minimum tax is a cartel to benefit governments with uncompetitive tax systems.

…there’s a real danger that these proposals will damage the prosperity of competitiveness of the world’s major economies, while trampling on nation states’ freedom and sovereignty. …The likes of France and Germany have long taken umbrage that smaller member states like Ireland and Luxembourg have used low corporate tax rates… Rather than reconsider their own counterproductive policies, the EU’s two biggest economies have simply decided to try forcing everyone else to play by their rules. …It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is another bout of protectionism from countries such as Germany, France, and Italy which have long pursued counter-productive, draconian tax policies. The big difference now is that they have a willing ally in the shape of Joe Biden. …there’s a word for this kind of behaviour. If businesses were following such a strategy instead of governments “we would call this a cartel”.

Last year, Thomas Duesterberg wrote critically about the implications for national sovereignty in a column for the Wall Street Journal.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has a grand idea: a global tax regime. …Together with the Biden administration’s plan to raise the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28% and eliminate preferences, it would return the U.S. to its pre-2017 status as a high-tax jurisdiction, discouraging domestic capital investment and production. More insidious, it would cede authority over taxation, one of the pillars of democratic governance… This approach would transfer significant national sovereignty over corporate taxation, key to overall economic policy, to some yet-to-be-defined international regime under the guidance of the OECD… The Biden team should understand the road it is heading down. …Ceding corporate-taxation authority to an undefined international authority that will inevitably be controlled by an unelected technocratic elite would erode Madisonian principles even further. It would move America closer to the EU model of governance.

Needless to say, the EU model of governance (centralization, harmonization, and bureaucratization) is not a good idea.

I’m not optimistic, but my fingers are crossed that this awful idea of a global minimum tax will fall apart.

If the politicians prevail, the rest of us will lose. We’ll have a system that produces ever-higher tax burdens.

P.S. If you want to understand the case for tax competition, click here, here, and here.

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I’ve already shared the “feel-good story” for 2022, so today I’m going to share this year’s feel-good map.

Courtesy of the Tax Foundation, here are the states that have lowered personal income tax rates and/or corporate income tax rates in 2021 and 2022. I’ve previously written about these reforms (both this year and last year), but more and more states and lowering tax burdens, giving us a new reason to write about this topic.

The map is actually even better than it looks because there are several states that don’t have any income taxes, so it’s impossible for them to lower rates. I’ve labelled them with a red zero.

And when you add together the states with no income tax with the states that are reducing income tax rates, more than half of them are either at the right destination (zero) or moving in that direction.

That’s very good news.

And here’s more good news from the Tax Foundation. The flat tax club is expanding.

I prefer the states with no income taxes, but low-rate flat taxes are the next best approach.

P.S. According to the Tax Foundation, New York and Washington, D.C. have moved in the wrong direction. Both increased income tax burdens in 2021. No wonder people are moving away.

P.P.S. If I had to pick the states with the best reforms, I think Iowa and Arizona belong at the top of the list.

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There are many reasons to admire Switzerland.

For today, let’s focus on how tax competition is one of the benefits of Swiss decentralization.

More specifically, most fiscal policy (both taxes and spending) takes place at the cantonal and municipal level. And this means that the Swiss can vote with their feet if they want more government or less government.

Not surprisingly, they tend to move to lower-tax areas. In a summary for VoxEU, Isabel Martínez shares some of her research on the impact of tax cuts and tax competition in the canton of Obwalden.

…economic research has made important contributions, showing that top earners indeed relocate across borders for tax reasons. …And as relocating within a country is typically less costly than moving across national borders, top earners tend to be even more sensitive to tax differences…ample evidence exists that lowering taxes is an effective means to attract top earners… I study a tax cut by the small Swiss canton of Obwalden, located in central Switzerland. The goal explicitly was to attract high-income taxpayers… In 2006, Obwalden changed its tax code and introduced falling marginal tax rates…in 2008 the canton introduced a flat rate tax, which lowered the tax load for top earners …the reform had the intended effect: by 2016, the share of high-income taxpayers in Obwalden had grown by 0.53 percentage points relative to other cantons. This is an increase of 100% compared to Obwalden’s initial share of top earners. Net income per taxpayer had risen by 17%. …I find a large elasticity of in-migration in the five years after the reform. A 1% increase in the net-of-average-tax rate increased the inflow of top earners by up to 7.2%.

For those who like getting into the weeds, here’s a chart from her report that shows how income taxes and wealth taxes dropped from 1995 (light blue) to 2001 (dark blue) to 2006 (red) to 2008 (green).

Ms. Martinez speculates whether these lower taxes were a net positive.

…besides having more high-income earners living in the canton, how much did Obwalden really gain? …Obwalden’s total tax revenue rose over time, but personal tax revenue in other cantons rose even more in comparison. …Where does this leave us? Attracting high-skilled top earners might have positive spillovers to the local economy. …between 2005 and 2008, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs rose by 11%, compared to a 4.3% increase in all Switzerland over the same period. This is even more remarkable as the total number of FTE jobs had been constant in Obwalden between 1995 and 2005. …However, these increases may not be solely due to the personal income tax reform: in 2006, Obwalden also substantially reduced its corporate tax rates to a uniform rate of 6.6%, the lowest in the country at the time.

While the headline of the article indicates that Obwalden’s reforms “might not be a winning strategy,” all of Ms. Martinez’s data shows good results.

Maybe the government isn’t collecting as much revenue, but that’s a good outcome from my perspective.

And the increase in jobs and income should be good news from everybody’s perspective.

By the way, tax competition is continuing to produce good results for Switzerland.

An article from SwissInfo catalogues some of the more-recent tax cuts by Swiss cantons.

In 2021, the average corporate tax rate dropped slightly from 14.9% to 14.7% in Switzerland. This is largely due to tax cuts made in three cantons… Canton Zug, home to several major companies including commodities giant Glencore, maintains the lowest corporate tax rate (11.9%) followed by the cantons of Nidwalden (12%) and Lucerne (12.2%). …The KPMG analysis found that the Swiss tax rates for high-income earners declined slightly compared to the previous year, from 33.7 to 33.5% due to the fact that 12 cantons cut tax rates for top incomes. The biggest cuts were made by the cantons of Schwyz (-1.5 percentage points), Schaffhausen (-1.0 percentage points), Thurgau and Lucerne (roughly -0.6 percentage points each). Top incomes are taxed at the lowest rates in canton Zug (22.2%).

P.S. There is some federalism in the United States and this means many Americans also can vote with their feet and benefit as various states lower tax rates and embrace tax reform.

P.P.S. For more data on the benefits of decentralization, click here, here, here, and here.

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I’m a big fan of federalism.

Switzerland is the gold standard for federalism. Unlike the United States, the Swiss have resisted centralization. Most spending and taxation still occurs at the sub-national level.

But there are other examples of decentralized systems, with Canada also deserving plenty of praise.

Today, though, I want to write about Spain.

I had an opportunity to learn about the Spanish system while giving speeches last week in Castellon, Barcelona, and Madrid as part of the Free Market Road Show.

Let’s look at some data from Liberalismo a la madrileña, written by Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, the head of Foro Regulación Inteligente.

His book documents how pro-market reforms in the Madrid region have resulted in greater prosperity.

We’ll start with a look at the level of economic freedom in different Spanish regions. Madrid is at the top and Extremadura (bordering Portugal) is at the bottom.

Does a higher level of economic freedom produce better results, as measured by per-capita economic output?

The answer is yes. Madrid ranks first and Extremadura ranks last.

This certainly seems like strong evidence for free markets and limited government.

And one of Diego’s earlier publications graphed the relationship between economic freedom and per-capita output.

Definitely a strong correlation.

But what about causation? For instance, some of my left-leaning friends may wonder if there’s some other reason for the superior performance of the Madrid region. Maybe it was always the richest part of Spain and its current prosperity has nothing to do with current policy.

People always should be skeptical about data, particularly when looking at one-year snapshots.

That’s why I’m a big fan of looking at long-run trends. And this chart showing how Madrid has overtaken Catalonia helps confirm that good policy produces good results.

To elaborate, Madrid enjoyed rapid convergence over the past two decades, a period where there was lots of economic liberalization (including de jure elimination of a wealth tax and de facto abolition of a death tax).

By the way, based on current trends, Madrid and Catalonia now may become members of the anti-convergence club.

P.S. There has been some discussion of decentralizing in Australia and the United Kingdom, but no actual progress so far.

P.P.S. Leading scholars from the Austrian school of economics wrote in favor of decentralization.

P.P.P.S. There are some simple steps to restore and rejuvenate federalism in the United States, such as block granting Medicaid and shutting down the Department of Transportation.

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As a fan of sensible tax policy and tax competition, I could not resist the opportunity to visit Andorra on my current trip to Europe (as part of the Free Market Road Show).

Here’s a chart that will tells you everything you need to know. Andorra’s top tax rate is just 10 percent, while its neighbors (Spain and France) have top tax rates of more than 40 percent.

Not as good as the Cayman Islands and Monaco, to be sure, but it is obviously better to keep 90 percent of the income you earn rather than only about 50 percent in Spain or France.

Actually, you probably only get to benefit from the use of about 40 percent of your income in those two nations when you factor in the value-added tax.

Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education recently wrote about the virtues of Andorra, including its superior tax regime.

…one of Europe’s seven “micro-states,” quaint and tiny nations which are political holdovers from the distant past. The other six are San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Malta, and Vatican City. Andorra is landlocked and sandwiched in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. …Micro-states are fascinating and among the freest enclaves in the world. …Freedom House ranks Andorra in its highest category—a “Free” country scoring an impressive 93 on a 100-point scale of political and civil liberties. …“The legal and regulatory framework,” the survey reports, “is generally supportive of property rights and entrepreneurship, and there are few undue obstacles to private business activity in practice.” …writes Guy Sharp, a native Andorran financial advisor…“you get many of the benefits of Europe without the high taxes.” …The maximum personal income tax rate, as well as the capital gains rate, is just 10 percent. …Most goods are subject to a modest value-added tax rate of less than five percent.

I can vouch for the fact that everything is more affordable in Andorra. That nation’s 4.5 percent value-added tax is akin to a modest sales tax in American states. When I’m in Spain, France, or other European countries, by contrast, you definitely feel the pain of 20 percent-plus VATs.

That being said, it’s the low-rate income tax that is a magnet for jobs and investment. The nation’s tax system is even attracting Spanish tax exiles.

Especially entrepreneurs who are making money online. Miodrag Pepic reports for the Valencian.

When the famous YouTube star ElRubius announced last month that he is permanently moving to Andorra, the Spanish public became aware for the first time that the most popular YouTubers are leaving the country, taking their earnings with them as well. The reason is very simple – Andorra has become a tax haven for this type of activity…many Spanish YouTubers have moved there. But ElRubius is one of the most famous. …In Spain, he would have paid up to 54% of his income in taxes, while in Andorra, the top income tax is only 10%. …The decision of ElRubius was criticised in the Spanish media as unpatriotic. …his popularity on YouTube remained undeterred, and in fact, his subscription base even grew. …There are quite a few other countries that have begun to lose their top earners, notably France and the Netherlands

Predictably, the Spanish government is not amused, as reported by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez of Reuters.

Spain’s tax agency said on Monday it would start using “big data” to track wealthy individuals who pretend to reside abroad for tax purposes. The crackdown comes after some of Spain’s most popular YouTube personalities moved their residency to Andorra, a wealthy microstate perched in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, with lower tax rates than its larger neighbours. …In Spain, anyone who earns above 300,000 euros per year must pay income tax of 47%, compared with a 10% flat rate charged by Andorra on earnings of more than 40,000 euros.

As you might expect, the Spanish government is not considering lower tax rates, which would be the best way of retaining successful entrepreneurs.

Instead, politicians are pushing tax policy in the wrong direction.

P.S. Here’s my tourist shot from Andorra.

P.P.S. Of the seven European micro-states mentioned by Lawrence Reed, I’ve now visited San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Vatican City. I still need to get to Malta.

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I’m a big fan of tax competition.

Why? Because if they’re not constrained by the fear that taxpayers can escape, I worry that short-sighted politicians (i.e., “stationary bandits“), will over-tax and over-spend.

And that can lead to Greek-like fiscal and economic chaos, which I’ve referred to as “goldfish government.”

Now let’s consider a wonky aspect of this debate. In order for tax competition to be an effective constraint on the greed of politicians, taxpayers need an ability to actually benefit from better tax policy in other jurisdictions.

In some cases, they achieve that goal by moving their bodies (“voting with their feet“). In other cases, they achieve that goal by moving their businesses (companies relocating to low-tax jurisdictions).

And in some cases, they achieve that goal by moving their money – which is why so-called tax havens traditionally played a beneficial role in the world economy.

These jurisdictions had very strong human-rights laws with regard to financial privacy and – equally important – they did not view it as their responsibility or obligation to help enforce the bad tax policies of high-tax governments.

All of which explains why those high-tax governments were so determined to destroy financial privacy as part of their broader fight to replace tax competition with tax harmonization.

In part, this was a fight over fiscal policy. High-tax governments wanted the ability to track money around the world so they could impose extra layers of tax on income that is saved and invested.

But this was also a fight about legal principles, especially the concept of “dual criminality” – which is the idea that governments only help each other enforce laws where there is mutual agreement about what’s legal and illegal.

Which is why people liked putting their money in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

The tax havens not only had strong human rights laws regarding privacy, but they also had various types of tax laws (no income taxes, territorial tax systems, no tax bias against saving and investment) that were incompatible with the onerous tax policies in most nations.

The net result was that high-tax governments couldn’t track and tax the money. And this made me happy because politicians from those nations instead faced pressure to lower tax rates.

But I’m not happy any more. Sadly, the big nations of the world have largely prevailed in their anti-tax competition campaign. At least with regards to financial privacy.

Even the Swiss agreed to weaken their human rights policies so high-tax nations could impose extraterritorial tax enforcement, notwithstanding the absence of dual criminality (in this case, Goliath beat David).

This was bad news. No longer constrained by the principle of dual criminality, politicians now feel more empowered to boost tax rates.

As you might imagine, my leftist friends usually dismiss my concerns. But I’m guessing they will change their tune about extraterritoriality after reading this column in the New York Times.

The authors (David S. Cohen, Greer Donley and are very worried that some states want to impose their abortion laws outside their borders. Here are some excerpts.

Some states will go beyond banning abortion within their borders. They will try to impose their policy preferences on other states, in an attempt to stop their citizens from getting abortions anywhere at all. …it will be up to abortion-supportive states to determine the future of abortion law and access. …All states have statutes that require their civil and criminal courts to assist in another state’s depositions, subpoenas and legal processes. Abortion-supportive states could amend these laws; such states could prohibit their courts from cooperating with out-of-state civil and criminal cases that stem from abortions that took place legally within their borders. To further protect abortion providers, states could block their law enforcement agencies from cooperating with out-of-state investigations related to the provision of otherwise lawful abortions. And they could change their extradition laws to refuse to extradite abortion providers… States where abortion remains legal can instruct their medical boards and in-state malpractice insurance companies to abstain from taking any adverse action against providers who give out-of-state patients abortions that are legal in the provider’s state.

In a world where people are intellectually honest, they will have consistent views on dual criminality, regardless of the underlying laws.

I strongly suspect, however, that most of my left-leaning friends will now embrace the principle of dual criminality as a constraint on extraterritoriality while still thinking it is good that low-tax jurisdictions have been coerced into acting as vassal tax collectors for high-tax governments.

Heck, some of my right-wing friends also will be hypocrites. They will support fiscal sovereignty but embrace extraterritoriality for abortion laws.

The bottom line – regardless of how we feel about tax policy or abortion policy – is that the power of governments should be constrained by borders.

If you don’t like the tax laws of Jurisdiction A or the abortion laws of Jurisdiction B, work to change those laws by devoting your time, energy, and money to an issue campaign. That’s the right approach, especially when compared to trying to achieve the same goals by using the laws of Jurisdiction C or Jurisdiction D.

P.S. The battle over the taxation of online sales was really a fight over whether businesses in some states could be forced into enforcing the tax laws of other states.

P.P.S. As a result of my efforts to protect tax havens, I’ve been subjected to slursattacks, and even potential imprisonment.

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I wrote two months ago about Iowa lawmakers voting for a simple and fair flat tax.

I explained how this reform would make the state more competitive, but I want to build upon that argument with some of the Tax Foundation’s data.

Starting with this map from the State Business Tax Climate Index, which shows Iowa in 38th place for individual income taxes.

That low ranking is where the state’s tax code was as of July 1, 2021, so it obviously doesn’t reflect the reforms enacted earlier this year.

So where will the state rank with the new flat tax?

The Tax Foundation crunched the data and shows the state will jump to #15 in the rankings.

The above table shows that the jump is even more impressive when you factor in some modest pro-growth changes that took place a few years ago.

What a huge improvement over just a few years. The only state that may beat Iowa for fastest and biggest increase in tax competitiveness is North Carolina, which jumped 30 spots in just one year.

P.S. Politicians in New York must be upset that there’s no way for them to drop lower than #50. But at least they can take comfort in the fact that they are worse than California.

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In my recent column listing the “Best and Worst News of 2021,” I included Joe Biden’s global tax cartel as one of the awful things that happened in the past 12 months.

It’s bad news for workers, consumers, and shareholders that politicians approved a system that will require all nations to have a corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent.

From the perspective of politicians, it’s easy to understand why they want a tax cartel. it’s a way for them to get their hands on more money. Just as gas stations would want a system that rigs gas prices at a high level. Or grocery stores would want a system to rig high food prices.

From the perspective of taxpayers, however, tax competition is much better. Politicians have a much harder time raising tax rates (and in many cases feel pressure to lower tax rates) when they know that jobs and investment can shift across borders from high-tax nations to low-tax nations.

As illustrated by this visual.

To explore this issue in greater detail, let’s look at a new article, written by Sven Larson for the European Conservative.

First, a quick history of the global campaign against low taxes. …it has been spearheaded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD. This government-funded international think tank has built an international cartel of more than 130 governments to battle tax competition. …People who want to keep more of their own money, and who want to enjoy strong privacy laws, are being told by the OECD and the tax cartel that their financial planning is “harmful.” The purpose behind the OECD-led campaign is both sinister and transparent: to make sure taxpayers in high-tax countries have no low-tax options. …It won a big victory this past summer when the countries in the G-7 group complied with the directives of the OECD and agreed to create a global minimum corporate-income tax.

This is spot on.

The OECD is a pro-statism international bureaucracy that looks after the interests of politicians rather than citizens.

Sven also makes a great point about how the corporate tax cartel is just the beginning.

This tax cartel is only the beginning. Once countries with costly governments have created a Berlin Wall around their high-tax jurisdictions, they will be free to collude on other taxes beyond the corporate income tax. Personal income taxes, wealth taxes, death taxes… there is no end to the imagination of a government that does not have to worry about tax competition.

Also spot on.

You should read the entire article. But for purposes of my column, I’m going to highlight one additional point – which is Sven’s observation about how human rights are better protected in a world where people can safely invest their money where national governments can’t grab it.

There are also reasons related to individual freedom to preserve low-tax jurisdictions. To take just one example, in 2017, …Turkish President Erdogan accused investors of “treason” if they moved their assets out of the country. Erdogan’s comments, France24 explains, came on the heels of Turkish prosecutors seizing the assets of an investor who had testified in a court in New York on how a Turkish bank circumvented U.S. sanctions against Iran. The asset seizure easily comes across as retaliatory and meant to send a signal to others who might act in ways that would displease Mr. Erdogan. A total of 23 individuals were affected by the asset seizure. If these individuals had been able to shield their assets from the Turkish government, they would have been free to oppose the Erdogan regime while working, investing, and developing their businesses.

Another argument that is spot on.

The bottom line is that low-tax jurisdictions should be celebrated rather than persecuted.

If the goal is better lives for ordinary people, policy makers should be criticizing tax hells rather than tax havens.

Especially when you consider that politicians have a very strong tendency to over-tax and over-spend (leading to goldfish government) in the absence of some sort of external constraint.

Or, to be more blunt, we need to restrain the “stationary bandit” that leads to “predatory government.”

P.S. Click here or here to learn about the economics of tax competition (and click here to see how many winners of the Nobel Prize agree).

P.P.S. Click here, here, and here for interesting examples of what happens when you oppose the left’s anti-tax competition agenda.

P.P.P.S. Leftists who don’t like tax competition occasionally can be clever.

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Yesterday’s column included a map showing which states gained and lost the most population over the past year.

I speculated that some of America’s internal migration was driven by differences in tax policy.

So it’s appropriate today that I share this map from the Tax Foundation’s annual State Business Tax Climate Index, showing Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, and Florida with the best scores and Connecticut, California, New York, and New Jersey with the worst scores.

Comparing today’s map with yesterday’s map, I immediately noticed that two states losing a lot of people – New York and California – also are states that have very bad tax systems.

And if you examine other states, you’ll confirm that there’s a relationship between tax policy and people “voting with their feet.”

Does that mean taxes are the only thing that matters? Of course not.

But as Janelle Cammenga and Jared Walczak explain in their report, they definitely have an effect on where money gets invested and where jobs get created.

Taxation is inevitable, but the specifics of a state’s tax structure matter greatly. The measure of total taxes paid is relevant, but other elements of a state tax system can also enhance or harm the competitiveness of a state’s business environment. …all types of businesses, small and large, tending to locate where they have the greatest competitive advantage. The evidence shows that states with the best tax systems will be the most competitive at attracting new businesses and most effective at generating economic and employment growth. …State lawmakers are right to be concerned about how their states rank in the global competition for jobs and capital, but they need to be more concerned with companies moving from Detroit, Michigan, to Dayton, Ohio, than from Detroit to New Delhi, India. …Tax competition is an unpleasant reality for state revenue and budget officials, but it is an effective restraint on state and local taxes.

One of the more interesting parts of the report is that you get to see where states rank when considering different types of taxes.

Here’s Table 1, which has the overall ranking in the first column, followed by the rankings for the main revenue sources for states.

If you read the report’s methodology, you’ll notice that there are different weights.

The worst tax (assuming a state wants a competitive system) is the personal income tax, followed by the sales tax and corporate income tax.

No state ranks in the top 10 for all five categories, though Florida, North Carolina, and Utah have relatively good scores across the board.

P.S. One important caveat is that the report does not list energy severance taxes, which are major sources of revenue for states such as Alaska and Wyoming. To be sure, those taxes that largely are borne by out-of-state consumers, so there’s a reason for the omission. Nonetheless, those taxes enable excessive government spending, which is why I think South Dakota and Florida actually have the nation’s best fiscal systems.

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I’ve written many times about how Americans are moving from high-tax states to low-tax states.

Now we have even more evidence because the Census Bureau has issued its annual report on state population changes, along with this accompanying map.

You don’t need to be an expert in map reading to see that California, Illinois, and New York are losing people at the fastest rate (orange states).

Likewise, the states gaining population at the fastest rate (purple states) include Texas.

This chart from the Wall Street Journal shows the biggest changes, as measured by the number of people moving in and out.

To be sure, taxes are not the only factor that drive internal migration.

But it’s also clear that people tend to move to lower-tax states, either because they overtly want to keep more of their money, or because they are attracted to the job opportunities that tend to be more plentiful where taxes are lower.

As you might expect, the coverage from Fox News highlights the fact that people are leaving blue states and moving to red states.

Between 2020 and 2021, the country has seen the lowest population growth since its founding, at only a 0.1% increase, but the biggest declines have occurred in Washington, D.C., and Democrat-led states, according to a report Tuesday by the Census Bureau. …New York with a 1.6% decline, Illinois with a 0.9% decline, and Hawaii and California that both saw a 0.7% decline. Meanwhile, the states that saw the biggest increase in population growth were Republican-run states, starting with Idaho at a 2.9% increase, followed by Utah with 1.7%, Montana with 1.7%, Arizona with 1.4% and South Carolina with 1.2%. …Florida and Texas, each saw a population growth of 1%.

Citing a different report, he Wall Street Journal opined a few days ago about the implications of migration for Illinois.

The Land of Lincoln is one of only three states, including West Virginia and Mississippi, to have lost population since 2010. But its population over age 55 has grown as Baby Boomers have aged. …Illinois is losing young people while Florida is gaining them. State development specialist Zach Kennedy notes that “the U.S. population actually grew in the prime working age, young adult age cohorts, 25 to 29, 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 year olds.” Illinois was among the few states to see a decline in these age cohorts. …“Only New Jersey lost more college-aged individuals out of state who never returned,” Mr. Kennedy says. Hmmm. What do the two have in common? …a shrinking population of prime-age working people and children means a smaller tax base will have to support growing retirement liabilities. Folks who stick around will have to pay higher and higher taxes. …each Illinois household on average is on the hook for $110,000 in government-worker retirement debt, up from $90,000 in 2019. …The per-household pension burdens in Iowa and Wisconsin were $3,500 and $3,200, respectively. Both states have gained young people. State and local government in Illinois is run by public-worker unions, and people are fleeing the economic and fiscal consequences.

The most important sentence in the preceding excerpt points out that “Folks who stick around will have to pay higher and higher taxes.”

And that will encourage even more of them to leave, which leads to even-further pressure for higher taxes on the chumps who remain.

Needless to say, that won’t end well, for Illinois or other blue states. Either they go bankrupt or future politicians do a big blue-state bailout.

P.S. This helps to explain why curtailing the federal tax code’s subsidy for excessive state and local tax burdens was so important.

P.P.S. This is also why federalism is both good politics and good policy.

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Motivated in part by an excellent graphic that I shared in 2016, I put together a five-column ranking of state personal income tax systems in 2018.

Given some changes that have since occurred, it’s time for a new version. The first two columns are self explanatory and columns 3 and 5 are based on whether the top tax rate on households is less than 5 percent (“Low Rate”) or more than 8 percent (“Class Warfare”).

Column 4, needless to say, is for states where the top tax rate in between 5-8 percent.

The good news is that the above table is better than the one I created in 2018. Thanks to tax competition between states, there have been some improvements in tax policy.

I recently wrote about Louisiana’s shift in the right direction.

Now we have some good news from the Tarheel state. The Wall Street Journal opined today about a new tax reform in North Carolina.

The deal phases out the state’s 2.5% corporate income tax between 2025 and 2031. …The deal also cuts the state’s flat 5.25% personal income tax rate in stages to 3.99% by July 1, 2027. …North Carolina ranks tenth on the Tax Foundation’s 2021 state business tax climate index, and these reforms will make it even more competitive. …North Carolina has an unreserved cash balance of $8.55 billion, and legislators are wisely returning some of it to taxpayers.

What’s especially noteworthy is that North Carolina has been moving in the right direction for almost 10 years.

P.S. Arizona almost moved from column 3 to column 5, but that big decline was averted.

P.P.S. There are efforts in Mississippi and Nebraska to get rid of state income taxes.

P.P.P.S. Kansas tried for a big improvement a few years ago, but ultimately settled for a modest improvement.

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Remember the supposedly breathtaking revelations from the “Panama Papers” back in 2016?

We were told those stolen documents were an indictment against so-called tax havens, but the real lesson was that politicians and other government insiders are very prone to corruption.

Well, it’s happened again. Thieves stole millions of documents (the “Pandora Papers”) from various firms around the world that specialize in cross-border investment.

Some journalists want us to believe that these documents are scandalous, but I poured cold water on this hysteria in an interview with the BBC.

If you don’t want to listen to me pontificate for about five minutes, here are the main points from the interview.

  • International investment is a good thing (much like international trade) and it necessarily requires the use of “offshore” entities such as companies, funds, and bank accounts.
  • Politicians don’t like cross-border investment because economic activity tends to migrate to places with lower tax rate, and this puts downward pressure on tax rates.
  • There is no evidence that people in the private sector use “offshore” entities in ways that are disproportionately dodgy.
  • By contrast, there is considerable evidence that politicians use “offshore” in ways that are disproportionately dodgy.
  • More than 99 percent of people engage in legal tax avoidance and that’s a good thing because it keeps money out of the hands of profligate politicians.
  • People should not have to share their private financial affairs, such as bank accounts and investment holdings, with the general public.

It’s not worth a separate bullet point, but my favorite part of the interview is when I noted the grotesque hypocrisy of the International Monetary Fund, which pimps for higher taxes all around the world, yet its employees get tax-free salaries.

The bottom line is that tax competition and so-called tax havens should be applauded rather than persecuted.

We should instead be condemning the “tax hells” of the world. Those are the jurisdictions that cause economic misery.

Since we’re on this topic, let’s also enjoy some excerpts from an article in Reason by Steven Greenhut.

Leftists are thrilled by the Biden administration’s plan to stamp out the bogeyman of tax havens—low-tax jurisdictions where corporations and other investors can keep their money away from the prying hands of the government. …Let’s dispense with the outrage about tax havens. There is nothing wrong with companies and individuals that shelter their earnings from governments, which are like organized mobs that can never seize enough revenue. …If you believe that tax havens are immoral, then you should not claim any deductions on your tax bill. President Joe Biden apparently thinks it’s wrong for corporations to locate their headquarters in low-tax Bermuda, Ireland, and Switzerland, yet why does his home of Delaware house so many U.S. corporate headquarters? …Tax havens provide pressure on big-spending governments to limit tax rates, and lower tax rates boost economic activity, create jobs, and incentivize investors to invest more. …Those who oppose tax havens simply want the government to take more money and have more power.

I’ll close by noting that many Nobel Prize-winning economists defend tax competition as a necessary check on the greed of the political class.

P.S. As you can see from this tweet, not everyone appreciated my BBC interview.

P.P.S. There was also a manufactured controversy involving stolen documents back in 2013.

P.P.P. S. My work on this issue has been…umm…interesting, resulting in everything from a front-page attack by the Washington Post to the possibility of getting tossed in a Mexican jail.

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How the Irish Saved Civilization was a bestselling book in the mid-1990s.

Today, we’re going to consider an updated version, focusing on whether Ireland can save the world economy from Joe Biden’s plan for a global tax cartel.

This should be a slam-dunk issue. Ireland transformed itself from “The Sick Man of Europe” to the “Celtic Tiger” in part by adopting a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate.

How much of a tiger? Look at this data comparing per-capita gross domestic product in Ireland and France.

For what it’s worth, the Maddison data on gross domestic product makes Ireland look richer than it actually is (a result driven by largely by all the corporate activity).

So I also used World Bank data on gross national income to create a chart that tells a similar story, but with numbers that presumably are a closer match to actual economic conditions.

The bottom line is that Ireland’s policy on corporate taxation has been a success.

But that success has produced envy. High-tax nations such as France are big supporters of Joe Biden’s scheme to force all jurisdictions to have a corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent.

And that minimum rate inevitably will increase if politicians are able to create a cartel (indeed, some nations already are pushing for the rate to be 25 percent or above).

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Ireland (as well as other nations such as Hungary and Estonia) presumably can block Biden’s tax cartel by using their “national veto” and preventing the European Union from being a participant.

But that means standing up to pressure.

For instance, the Associated Press recently reported on how France is trying to cajole Ireland into joining the cartel.

Emmanuel Macron was in Dublin for a one-day visit on Thursday, his first trip to Ireland since entering office. The State is facing calls from the French government to sign up to global tax reform. The country is one of only a handful of nations not to agree to a major Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreement on tax, which is backed by more than 130 countries worldwide, as well as the EU. …At a press conference in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Macron denied that he was putting pressure on the State on the issue. “This is for you to lead. This is not for France to put pressure. But I think the OECD framework works in the context,” Mr Macron said. “It makes sense in terms of co-operation. It makes sense in terms of the EU. …He said that the Irish economy had achieved “tremendous results” in recent decades and acknowledged that a low corporate tax base had been a crucial part of that success. “What you have managed to do in past decades is unique,” Mr Macron said. But he said that things had to change.

Saul Zimet and Dan Sanchez, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, explained why Ireland should defends its fiscal sovereignty.

132 countries, including the twenty most powerful economies in the world, have all agreed to institute a minimum global corporate tax of 15 percent. …But, one hold-out is threatening to spoil the scheme. …Ireland has long had a 12.5 percent corporate tax… And this relatively low tax rate has drawn Facebook, Apple, Google, Pfizer, and many other corporate giants to set up regional headquarters or manufacturing hubs there instead of in countries with higher tax rates. …the flow of corporate wealth and opportunity into Ireland has resulted in enormous GDP growth and job growth for the nation in recent decades… Lower corporate taxes mean a bigger capital stock which means new jobs, higher wages, and more goods and services. That is why Ireland’s low corporate taxes have not just been good for multinational corporations, but for Irish workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs. …Jurisdictional competition, like market competition, is a good thing. It places a check on how tyrannical a government can be… So kudos to Ireland for bravely refusing to join what amounts to a 132-government tax cartel. By standing up for itself, it stood up for us all.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, former Congressman Mick Mulvaney also opined in favor of Ireland.

The premise behind the minimum global corporate tax is simple: Most governments around the world are looking to raise money. But they don’t like taxing the middle class, as this tends to result in lost elections, and there aren’t enough rich people to soak to raise the necessary funds. That means that governments have started to look to corporations as piggy banks they can raid. …the Irish…rode a 12.5% corporate tax rate to an economic boom that has left many other European countries green with envy. …The Irish know what should be obvious to everyone: Their OECD partners can’t raise their corporate rates unless low-tax Ireland agrees to give up one of its largest competitive advantages in the global marketplace. …if you are losing a competition, there are two ways you can respond. One is to get better. The other is to prevent the competition from happening. …Ireland is on the front line of that battle today. Should it lose, the fight will be coming to our shores soon.

Mulvaney’s point about competition is spot on.

Joe Biden wants to raise the federal corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, a policy that would give the United States (once again) the developed world’s most punitive system.

I don’t know if Biden is cognizant of the consequences, but his Treasury Secretary clearly understands that this means the United States will lose the battle for jobs and investment.

Which explains why the Biden Administration wants “to prevent the competition from happening.”

Let’s hope Ireland holds firm and says no to Biden’s anti-growth tax cartel.

P.S. For what it’s worth, Ireland failed to block the E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty back in 2009.

P.P.S. The current president of Ireland almost surely is on the wrong side, but fortunately he has very little power in the Irish system.

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The best news of 2021 almost surely is the big expansion of school choice in several states.

That’s a great development, especially for poor and minority families.

But there’s another positive trend at the state level. As indicated by this map from the Tax Foundation, tax rates have been reduced in several jurisdictions.

I’ve already written about Arizona’s very attractive tax reform, though I also acknowledged that the new law mostly stops the tax system from getting worse (because of a bad 2020 referendum result).

But stopping something bad is an achievement, regardless.

What about other states? The Tax Foundation’s article has all the details you could possibly want, including phase-in times and presence (in some states) of revenue triggers.

For purposes of today’s column, let’s simply focus on what’s happening to top tax rates. Here’s a table with the key results, ranked by the size of the rate reduction.

Kudos to Arizona, of course, but Iowa and Louisiana also deserve praise for significantly dropping their top tax rates.

As these states move in the right direction, keep in mind that some states are shifting (or trying to shift) in the wrong direction.

And bigger differences between sensible states and class-warfare states will increase interstate tax migration – with predictable political consequences.

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I critiqued Biden’s proposal for a global corporate tax cartel as part of a recent discussion with South Africa’s Free Market Foundation.

Here’s the segment where I explain why it would be bad for developing nations.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Joe Biden is pushing this policy because he wants more tax revenue to fund his misguided plan for a bigger welfare state in the United States.

And the same is true for politicians in other big nations such as France, Japan, and Germany.

So as negotiations continue and rules are decided, rest assured that those countries will look after themselves and politicians from developing nations will be lucky to get a few crumbs from the table.

This discussion gives me a good excuse to put together this list of the potential winners and losers from a global tax cartel.

Since I slapped this together in five minutes, I won’t pretend it’s comprehensive.

But it’s hopefully more complete than a simple statement that politicians are the winners and people in the private sector are the losers.

Speaking of losers, my list includes “Nations with sensible tax policy,” and that’s a good reason to share this story from the New York Times. It’s about Janet Yellen’s efforts to convince Irish politicians to sacrifice their nation’s economic advantage.

The United States is hopeful that Ireland will drop its resistance to joining the global tax agreement… The agreement, which gained the support of the Group of 20 nations on Saturday, would usher in a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent. It would also change how taxing rights were allocated, allowing countries to collect levies from large, profitable multinational firms based on where their goods and services were sold. …Ms. Yellen held high-stakes meetings in Brussels this week with Paschal Donohoe, Ireland’s finance minister… She needs Mr. Donohoe’s support because the European Union requires unanimity among its members to formally join the deal.

So you may be wondering what Ms. Yellen said? Did she have some clever and insightful argument of how Ireland would benefit (or at least not be hurt) if politicians create a global tax cartel?

Nope. The best she could come up with is that Ireland’s tax system wouldn’t be as bad as the one she wants for the United States.

Ms. Yellen told her Irish counterpart that Ireland’s economic model would not be upended if it increased its tax rate from 12.5 percent…it would still have a large gap between its rate and the 21 percent tax rate on foreign earnings that the Biden administration has proposed.

And her weak argument is even weaker when you consider that she’s already pushing for a much-higher minimum tax.

The bottom line is that Ireland has reaped enormous benefits from its decision to enact a low corporate tax rate. But if a global tax cartel is imposed, it would simply be a matter of time before that country gets relegated to being an economic backwater on the periphery of Europe.

P.S. Part of the discussion in the video was about developing nations having the right to copy the economic model (no income tax and no welfare state) that enabled North American and Western Europe to become rich in the 1800s. Sadly, I don’t think many politicians in the developing world are interested in that approach nowadays, but rich nations shouldn’t make it impossible.

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When President Biden proposed a “global minimum tax” for businesses, I immediately warned that would lead to ever-increasing tax rates.

Ross Kaminsky of KHOW and I discussed how this is already happening.

I hate being right, but it’s always safe to predict that politicians and bureaucrats will embrace policies that give more power to government.

Especially when they are very anxious to stifle tax competition.

For decades, people in government have been upset that the tax cuts implemented by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher triggered a four-decade trend of lower tax rates and pro-growth tax reform.

That’s the reason Biden and his Treasury Secretary proposed a 15 percent minimum tax rate for businesses.

And it’s the reason they now want the rate to be even higher.

Though even I’m surprised that they’re already pushing for that outcome when the original pact hasn’t even been approved or implemented.

Here are some passages from a report by Reuters.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will press G20 counterparts this week for a global minimum corporate tax rate above the 15% floor agreed by 130 countries last week…the global minimum tax rate…is tied to the outcome of legislation to raise the U.S. minimum tax rate, a Treasury official said. The Biden administration has proposed doubling the U.S. minimum tax on corporations overseas intangible income to 21% along with a new companion “enforcement” tax that would deny deductions to companies for tax payments to countries that fail to adopt the new global minimum rate. The officials said several countries were pushing for a rate above 15%, along with the United States.

Other kleptocratic governments naturally want the same thing.

A G7 proposal for a global minimum tax rate of 15% is too low and a rate of at least 21% is needed, Argentina’s finance minister said on Monday, leading a push by some developing countries… “The 15% rate is way too low,” Argentine Finance Minister Martin Guzman told an online panel hosted by the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation. …”The minimum rate being proposed would not do much to countries in Africa…,” Mathew Gbonjubola, Nigeria’s tax policy director, told the same conference.

Needless to say, I’m not surprised that Argentina is on the wrong side.

And supporters of class warfare also are agitating for a higher minimum rate. Here are some excerpts from a column in the New York Times by Gabriel Zucman and Gus Wezerek.

In the decades after World War II, close to 50 percent of American companies’ earnings went to state and federal taxes. …it was a golden period. …President Biden should be applauded for trying to end the race to the bottom on corporate tax rates. But even if Congress approves the 15 percent global minimum corporate tax, it won’t be enough. …the Biden administration to give working families a real leg up, it should push Congress to enact a 25 percent minimum tax, which would bring in about $200 billion in additional revenue each year. …With a 25 percent minimum corporate tax, the Biden administration would begin to reverse decades of growing inequality. And it would encourage other countries to do the same, replacing a race to the bottom with a sprint to the top.

I can’t resist making two observations about this ideological screed.

  1. Even the IMF and OECD agree that the so-called race to the bottom has not led to a decline in corporate tax revenues, even when measured as a share of economic output.
  2. Since companies legally avoid rather than illegally evade taxes, the headline of the column is utterly dishonest – but it’s what we’ve learned to expect from the New York Times.

The only good thing about the Zucman-Wezerek column is that it includes this chart showing how corporate tax rates have dramatically declined since 1980.

P.S. For those interested, the horizontal line at the bottom is for Bermuda, though other jurisdictions (such as Monaco and the Cayman Islands) also deserve credit for having no corporate income taxes.

P.P.S. If you want to know why high corporate tax rates are misguided, click here. And if you want to know why Biden’s plan to raise the U.S. corporate tax rate is misguided, click here. Or here. Or here.

P.P.P.S. And if you want more information about why Biden’s global tax cartel is bad, click here, here, and here.

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The best referendum result of 2020 (indeed, the best policy development of the year) was when the people of Illinois voted to preserve their flat tax, thus delivering a crushing defeat to the Prairie State’s hypocritical governor, J.B. Pritzker.

The worst referendum result of 2020 was when the people of Arizona voted for a class-warfare tax scheme that boosted the state’s top tax rate from 4.5 percent to 8 percent.

In one fell swoop, Arizona became a high-tax state for investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, and business owners. That was a very dumb choice, especially since there are zero-income tax states in the region (Nevada, Texas, and Wyoming), as well as two flat-tax states (Utah and Colorado).

You can see Arizona’s problem in this map from the Tax Foundation. It’s great to be grey and good to be yellow, but bad to be orange (like Arizona), red, or maroon.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that lawmakers in have just approved a plan that will significantly lower tax rates and restore the state’s competitiveness.

The Wall Street Journal opined this morning about this positive development.

Arizona currently taxes income under a progressive rate structure, starting at 2.59% up to 4.5%. The ballot last November carried an initiative to add a 3.5% surtax on earnings above $250,000 for single filers. It narrowly passed, meaning the combined top rate was set to hit 8%, higher than all of Arizona’s neighbors except California. …Mr. Ducey’s budget will cut rates for all taxpayers. The Legislature can’t repeal the voter-approved surtax, so above the 2.5% flat rate, there will still be a second bracket on income over $250,000. But the budget also has a provision adjusting the flat tax downward for those Arizonans, so no one will pay a top rate above 4.5%. …the same as today. …No Arizonan will have to pay the threatened 8% rate, since the provisions forestalling it are immediate. …“Every Arizonan—no matter how much they make—wins with this legislation,” Mr. Ducey said. “It will protect small businesses from a devastating 77 percent tax increase…and it will help our state stay competitive so we can continue to attract good-paying jobs.” That’s worth celebrating.

A story from the Associated Press gave the development a much more negative spin.

After slashing $1.9 billion in income taxes mainly benefiting upper-income taxpayers and shielding them from higher taxes approved by voters in an initiative last year, the Republican-controlled House returned Friday and passed more legislation targeting Proposition 208. The House approved the creation of a new tax category for small business, trusts and estates that will eliminate even more of the money that the measure approved by voters in November was designed to raise for schools. The proposal passed despite unified opposition from minority Democrats. …The governor has expressed disdain for the voter-approved tax, saying it would hurt the state’s economy and vowing in March to see it gutted either though Legislation or the courts. …The budget-approved tax cuts set a flat 2.5% tax on all income levels that will be phased in over several years once revenue projections are met, with those subject to the new education tax paying 4.5% at most.

If nothing else, an amusing example of bias from AP.

I have two modest contributions to this discussion.

First, it’s not accurate to say that Arizona adopted a flat tax. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but a flat tax has to have only one rate. Arizona’s reform is praiseworthy, but it doesn’t fulfill that key equality principle.

Second, the main takeaway is not that lawmakers did something good. It’s more accurate to say that they protected the state from something bad.

I’ve updated this 2018 visual to show how the referendum would have pushed Arizona into Column 5, which is the worst category, but the reform keeps the state in column 3.

P.S. North Carolina made the biggest shift in the right direction in recent years, followed by Kentucky, while Kansas flirted with a big improvement and settled for a modest improvement. Meanwhile, Mississippi is thinking about making a huge positive jump.

P.P.S. Since Arizona voters made a bad choice and Arizona lawmakers made a wise choice, this is evidence for Prof. Garett Jones’ hypothesis that too much democracy is a bad thing.

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Yesterday’s column explained why Biden’s proposed global cartel for corporate taxation was a bad idea.

In this clip from a recent panel hosted by the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna, I speculated on whether the plan would become reality.

I encourage you to watch the 4-minute video, but all you really need to know is that there are lots of obstacles to a cartel. Most notably, countries with pro-growth business tax regimes (such as Ireland, Estonia, and Switzerland in Europe) have big incentives to say no.

And if legislation is required in the United States, I assume that won’t be an easy sell, at least for GOP members.

But, as I warn in the video, the other side has hundreds of bureaucrats at the OECD and various finance ministries and treasury departments. And these taxpayer-financed mandarins have both the time and patience to chip away until they achieve their goals.

So it is critical that economists such as myself do a good job of educating policy makers about the adverse consequences of a tax cartel.

Which is why people should read this column by Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center. Here are some key excerpts.

For several decades now, politicians around the world have tried to curtail tax competition to make it easier for them to increase the tax burdens on their citizens without them fleeing to other lower-tax jurisdictions. The best way to achieve their goal is to create a global high-tax cartel. …It’s no mystery why politicians don’t like tax competition. …The ability to shift residences and operations from country to country puts pressure on governments to keep taxes on income, investment, and wealth lower than politicians would like. Politicians in each country fear that raising taxes will prompt high-income earners and capital to move away. …Academic research shows that the imposition of higher corporate taxes is a highly destructive way to collect revenue because it lowers investment and, in turn, workers’ wages. It also increases consumer prices. Also, let’s face it, no nation has ever become wealthier and better through higher taxes and wealth redistribution.

This column for Prof. Bruce Yandle also is very informative. Here’s some of what he wrote.

It was with a feeling of deep disappointment…that I read Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is…pushing to form an international cartel of governments that would implement a minimum corporate income tax rate across borders. …Efforts to cartelize taxation among nations will…, all else equal, lead to a higher-cost world economy. …Instead of searching high and low for ways to raise costs in the hope that more federal revenue and spending will follow, we should hope that our national leaders work harder to find better, more efficient ways to govern and serve the people. Doing so will give more people a much better chance at prosperity.

Amen. Tax harmonization was most accurately described by a former member of the European Parliament, who said it was a “thieves’ cartel.”

P.S. One of the worst aspects of the proposed tax cartel is that it will make it more difficult for poor countries to use good policy to improve living standards for their people.

P.P.S. Click here for my primer on tax competition.

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When governments have to compete with each other, we get lower tax rates. That’s good for taxpayers and good for growth.

But politicians hate limits on their taxing power, which is why Biden has proposed a global tax cartel. Here are some of my remarks made yesterday on this topic.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, here are the key points I made when asked about the impact of Biden’s scheme.

  • The tax cartel is a naked grab for more revenue.
  • Higher taxes on businesses arguably are the worst way to collect more tax revenue. Indeed, both the IMF and OECD have research showing the destructive impact of higher corporate tax burdens.
  • The global minimum tax will lead to a couple of additional bad consequences. 1) The 15 percent rate will be increased, and 2) Cartels will be created for other taxes.

I was then asked about whether there are better ways of generating revenue, particularly by having economic policies that lead to more growth.

This presumably was an opportunity for me to pontificate about the Laffer Curve, but I decided to make a more fundamental point about how politicians should not have more money.

I closed my remarks by pointing out that the world enjoyed an era of falling tax rates, which began when Reagan and Thatcher slashed tax rates about 40 years ago.

The average top personal tax rate in the developed world dropped from nearly 70 percent to just a bit over 40 percent.

The average corporate tax rate in industrialized nations dropped from nearly 50 percent to less than 25 percent.

Other nations didn’t copy the U.S. and U.K. because politicians were reading my boring articles about marginal tax rates. Instead, they only did the right thing because they were worried about losing jobs and investment.

One point I forgot to make (particularly in response to the second question) is that I should have explained that tax revenues as a share of GDP did not fall when tax rates were reduced.

Indeed, OECD data shows that tax revenues on income and profits (as a share of GDP) actually have risen during the period of falling tax rates.

The bottom line is that we need tax competition to protect us from “stationary bandits” who would produce “goldfish government.”

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The bad news is that federalism has declined in the United States as politicians in Washington have expanded the size and scope of the national government.

The good news is that some federalism still exists and this means Americans have some ability to choose the type of government they prefer by “voting with their feet.”

  1. They can choose states that tax a lot and spend a lot.
  2. They can choose states with lower fiscal burdens.

You won’t be surprised to learn that people generally prefer option #2.

Researchers have found a significant correlation between state fiscal policy and migration patterns.

And it’s still happening.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, Allysia Finley and Kate LaVoie discuss some research based on IRS data about taxpayer migration patterns.

Here’s some of what they wrote.

New IRS data compiled by research outfit Wirepoints illustrate the flight from high- to low-tax states. …Retirees in the Midwest and Northeast are flocking to sunnier climes. But notably, states with no income tax (Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming) made up four of the 10 states with the largest income gains. On the other hand, five of the 10 states with the greatest income losses (NY, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, California) ranked among the top 10 states with the highest top marginal income tax rates. …Florida gained a whopping $17.7 billion in AGI including $3.4 billion from New York, $1.2 billion from California, $1.9 billion from Illinois, $1.7 billion from New Jersey and $1 billion from Connecticut. California, on the other hand, lost $8.8 billion including $1.6 billion to Texas, $1.5 billion to Nevada, $1.2 billion to Arizona and $700 million to Washington.

Here’s a very informative visual, showing the share of income that either left a state (top half of the chart) or entered a state (bottom half of the chart).

Our friends on the left say that this data merely shows that retirees move to states with nicer climates.

That is surely a partial explanation, but it doesn’t explain why California – the state with the nation’s best climate – is losing people and businesses.

Heck, I even have a seven-part series (March 2010February 2013April 2013October 2018June 2019, December 2020, and February 2021) on the exodus from California to Texas.

Let’s return to the Finley-LaVoie column, because there’s some additional data that deserves attention. They point out that states with better policy are big net winners when you look at the average income of migrants.

The average taxpayer who moved to Florida from the other 49 states had an AGI of $110,000… By contrast, the average taxpayer who left Florida had an AGI of just $66,000. In sum, high-tax states aren’t just losing more taxpayers—they are losing higher-income ones. Similarly, low and no income states are generally gaining more taxpayers who also earn more. …When blue states lose high earners, their tax base shrinks, but their cost base continues to grow due to rich government employee pay, pensions and other benefits. …The result is that low-tax states are getting richer while those that impose higher taxes are getting poorer.

As you can see, Florida is a big beneficiary.

And I shared data a few years ago showing that states such as Illinois are big net losers.

Let’s conclude by asking why some politicians, such as the hypocritical governor of Illinois, don’t care when they’re on the losing side of these trends?

I don’t actually know what they’re thinking, of course, but I suspect the answer has something to do with the fact that departing taxpayers probably are more libertarian and conservative. So if you’re a big-spending politician, you probably are not very upset when migration patterns mean your state becomes more left-leaning over time.

That’s a smart political approach.

Until, of course, those states no longer have enough productive people to finance big government.

In other words, every government is limited by Margaret Thatcher’s famous warning.

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Biden’s tax agenda – especially the proposed increase in the corporate rate – would be very bad for American competitiveness.

We know this is true because the Administration wants to violate the sovereignty of other nations with a scheme that would require all nations to impose a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent.

Indeed, the White House openly says it wants to export bad policy to other nations “so that foreign corporations aren’t advantaged and foreign countries can’t try to get a competitive edge.”

Other big nations (the infamous G-7) just announced they want to participate in the proposed tax cartel.

I was just interviewed on this topic by the BBC World Service and I’ve extracted my most important quotes.

But I encourage you to listen to the full discussion, which starts with (predictably awful) comments from the French Finance Minister, followed by a couple of minutes of my sage observations.

For what it’s worth, “reprehensible” doesn’t begin to capture my disdain for what the politicians are trying to achieve.

What’s particularly irritating is that politicians want us to think that companies are engaging in rogue tax avoidance. Yet, as I noted in the interview, national governments already have the ability to reject overly aggressive forms of tax planning by multinational firms.

Here’s some of what was reported about the proposed cartel by the Associated Press.

The Group of Seven wealthy democracies agreed Saturday to support a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15%… U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the agreement “provides tremendous momentum” for reaching a global deal that “would end the race-to-the-bottom in corporate taxation…” The endorsement from the G-7 could help build momentum for a deal in wider talks among more than 135 countries being held in Paris as well as a Group of 20 finance ministers meeting in Venice in July. …The Group of 7 is an informal forum among Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. European Union representatives also attend. Its decisions are not legally binding, but leaders can use the forum to exert political influence.

As you just read, the battle is not lost. Hopefully, the jurisdictions with good corporate tax policy (Ireland, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, Switzerland, etc) will resist pressure and thus cripple Biden’s cartel.

I’ll close by emphasizing that the world needs tax competition as a necessary check on the greed of politicians. Without any sort of constraint, elected officials will over-tax and over-spend.

Which is why they’re trying to impose a tax cartel. They don’t want any limits on their ability to buy votes with other people’s money.

And we can see from Greece what then happens.

P.S. The Trump Administration also was awful on the issue of tax competition.

P.P.S. Here’s my most-recent column about the so-called “race to the bottom.”

P.P.P.S. As noted in the interview, both the IMF and OECD have research showing the destructive impact of higher corporate tax burdens.

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Way back in 2007, I narrated this video to explain why tax competition is very desirable because politicians are likely to overtax and overspend (“Goldfish Government“) if they think taxpayers have no ability to escape.

The good news is that tax competition has been working.

As explained in the above video, there have been big reductions in personal tax rates and corporate tax rates. Just as important, governments have reduced various forms of double taxation, meaning lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Many governments have also reduced – or even eliminated – death taxes and wealth taxes.

These pro-growth tax reforms didn’t happen because politicians read my columns (I wish!). Instead, they adopted better tax policy because they were afraid of losing jobs and investment to countries with better fiscal policy.

Now for the bad news.

There’s been an ongoing campaign by high-tax governments to replace tax competition with tax harmonization. They’ve even conscripted international bureaucracies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to launch attacks against low-tax jurisdictions.

And now the United States is definitely on the wrong side of this issue.

Here’s some of what the Biden Administration wants.

The United States can lead the world to end the race to the bottom on corporate tax rates. A minimum tax on U.S. corporations alone is insufficient. …President Biden is also proposing to encourage other countries to adopt strong minimum taxes on corporations, just like the United States, so that foreign corporations aren’t advantaged and foreign countries can’t try to get a competitive edge by serving as tax havens. This plan also denies deductions to foreign corporations…if they are based in a country that does not adopt a strong minimum tax. …The United States is now seeking a global agreement on a strong minimum tax through multilateral negotiations. This provision makes our commitment to a global minimum tax clear. The time has come to level the playing field and no longer allow countries to gain a competitive edge by slashing corporate tax rates.

As Charlie Brown would say, “good grief.” Those passages sound like they were written by someone in France, not America

And Heaven forbid that  countries “gain a competitive edge by slashing corporate tax rates.” Quelle horreur!

There are three things to understand about this reprehensible initiative from the Biden Administration.

  1. Tax harmonization means ever-increasing tax rates – It goes without saying that if politicians are able to create a tax cartel, it will merely be a matter of time before they ratchet up the tax rate. Simply stated, they won’t have to worry about an exodus of jobs and investment because all countries will be obliged to have the same bad approach.
  2. Corporate tax harmonization will be followed by harmonization of other taxes – If the scheme for a harmonized corporate tax is imposed, the next step will be harmonized (and higher) tax rates on personal income, dividends, capital gains, and other forms of work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship.
  3. Tax harmonization denies poor countries the best path to prosperity – The western world became rich in the 1800s and early 1900s when there was very small government and no income taxes. That’s the path a few sensible jurisdictions want to copy today so they can bring prosperity to their people, but that won’t be possible in a world of tax harmonization.

P.S. If you want more information, here’s a three-part video series on tax havens, and even a video debunking some of Obama’s demagoguery on the topic.

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The state of New York is an economic disaster area.

  • New York is ranked #50 in the Economic Freedom of North America.
  • New York is ranked #48 in the State Business Tax Climate Index.
  • New York is ranked #50 in the Freedom in the 50 States.
  • New York is next-to-last in measures of inbound migration.
  • New York is ranked #50 in the State Soft Tyranny Index.

The good news is that New York’s politicians seem to be aware of these rankings and are taking steps to change policy.

The bad news is that they apparently want to be in last place in every index, so they’re looking at a giant tax increase.

The Wall Street Journal opined on the potential tax increase yesterday.

…lawmakers in Albany should be shouting welcome home. Instead they’re eyeing big new tax increases that would give the state’s temporary refugees to Florida—or wherever—one more reason to stay away for good. …Here are some of the proposals… Impose graduated rates on millionaires, up to 11.85%. …Since New York City has its own income tax, running to 3.88%, the combined rate would be…a bigger bite than even California’s notorious 13.3% top tax, and don’t forget Uncle Sam’s 37% share. …The squeeze is worse when you add the new taxes President Biden wants. A second factor: In 2017 the federal deduction for state and local taxes was capped at $10,000, so New Yorkers will now really feel the pinch. As E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy writes: “The financial incentive for high earners to move themselves and their businesses from New York to states with low or no income taxes has never—ever—been higher than it already is.”

The potential deal also would increase the state’s capital gains tax and the state’s death tax, adding two more reasons for entrepreneurs and investors to escape.

Here are some more details from a story in the New York Times by Luis Ferré-Sadurní and .

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York State legislative leaders were nearing a budget agreement on Monday that would make New York City’s millionaires pay the highest personal income taxes in the nation… Under the proposed new tax rate, the city’s top earners could pay between 13.5 percent to 14.8 percent in state and city taxes, when combined with New York City’s top income tax rate of 3.88 percent — more than the top marginal income tax rate of 13.3 percent in California… Raising taxes on the rich in New York has been a top policy priority of the Democratic Party’s left flank… The business community has warned that raising income taxes could prompt millionaires who have left the state during the pandemic and are working remotely to make their move permanent, damaging the state’s tax base. Currently, the top 2 percent of the state’s highest earners pay about half of the state’s income taxes. …The corporate franchise tax rate would also increase to 7.25 percent from 6.5 percent.

There are two things to keep in mind about this looming tax increase.

That second item is a big reason why so many taxpayers already have escaped New York and moved to states with better tax policy (most notably, Florida).

And even more will move if tax rates are increased, as expected.

Indeed, if the left’s dream agenda is adopted, I wouldn’t be surprised if every successful person left New York. In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Mark Kingdon warns about other tax hikes being considered, especially a wealth tax.

Legislators in Albany are considering two tax bills that could seriously damage the economic well-being and quality of life in New York for many years to come: a wealth tax and a stock transfer tax. …Should New York enact a 2% wealth tax, a wealthy New Yorker could wind up paying a 77% tax on short-term stock market profits. And that’s a conservative estimate: It assumes that stocks return 9% a year. If the return is 4.4% or less, the tax would be more than 100%. …65,000 families pay half of the city’s income taxes, and they won’t stay if the taxes become unreasonable… The trickle of wealthy émigrés out of New York has become a steady stream… It will be a flood if New York enacts a wealth tax with an associated tax on unrealized gains, which would lower, not raise, tax revenues, as those who leave take with them jobs and related services, such as legal and accounting. …The geese who have laid golden eggs for years see what is happening in Albany, and they’ll fly south to avoid being carved up.

The good news – at least relatively speaking – is that a wealth tax is highly unlikely.

But that a rather small silver lining on a very big dark cloud. The tax increases that will happen are more than enough to make the state even more hostile to private sector growth.

I’ll close with a few observations.

There are a few states that can get away with higher-than-average taxes because of special considerations. California, for instance, has climate and scenery. In the case of New York, it can get away with some bad policy because some people think of New York City as a one-of-a-kind place. But there’s a limit to how much those factors can be exploited, as both California and New York are now learning.

What politicians don’t realize (or don’t care about) is that people look at a range of factors when deciding where to live. This is especially true for successful entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners, who have both resources and knowledge to assess the costs and benefits of different locations. The problem for New York is that it looks bad on almost all policy metrics.

If the tax increases is enacted, expect to see a significant drop in taxable income as upper-income taxpayers either leave the state or figure out other ways of protecting their income. I don’t know if the state will be on the downward-sloping portion of the Laffer Curve, but it’s safe to assume that revenues over time will fall far short of projections. And it’s very safe to assume that the economic damage will easily offset any revenues that are collected.

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For the past couple of decades, I’ve been warning (over and over and over and over again) that politicians want to curtail tax competition so that it will be easier for them to increase tax burdens.

They’ve even been using an international bureaucracy – the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – in an effort to create a global high-tax cartel. Sort of an “OPEC for politicians.”

All of which would lead to “goldfish government.” Though “predatory government” also would be an accurate term.

The Obama Administration did not have a good track record on this issue, and neither did the Trump Administration.

Now the Biden Administration wants to be even worse. Especially if Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen continues to play a major role.

Here are some excerpts from a story in today’s Washington Post by Jeff Stein.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is working with her counterparts worldwide to forge an agreement on a global minimum tax on multinational corporations, as the White House looks for revenue… A key source of new revenue probably will be corporate taxes… Biden has said he would aim to raise potentially hundreds of billions more in revenue from big businesses. …tax experts…say raising the rate could damage U.S. competitiveness. …Yellen is working…through an effort at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in which more than 140 countries are participating. The goal is for countries to agree in principle to a minimum corporate tax rate… “A global minimum tax could stop the destructive global race to the bottom…,” Yellen told U.S. senators during her confirmation process. …The impact of the falling international tax rate has hit the United States as well, constraining lawmakers’ ambitions to approve new domestic programs.

Needless to say, any type of tax harmonization is a bad idea, and it is an especially bad idea to impose a minimum rate on a tax that does so much economic damage.

Here are four points that deserve attention.

  1. Higher corporate tax burdens will be bad news for workers, consumers, and investors.
  2. Regarding the so-called race to the bottom, even the IMF and OECD have admitted that lower corporate tax rates have not led to lower corporate tax revenue.
  3. Once politicians impose a global agreement for a minimum corporate tax rate, they will then start increasing the rate.
  4. Politicians also will then seek agreements for minimum tax rates on personal income, capital gains, and dividends.

I also want to cite one more passage from the article because it shows why the business community will probably lose this battle.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it supports a “multilateral” approach to the problem but is “extremely concerned”.

I don’t mean to be impolite, but the lobbyists at the Chamber of Commerce must be morons to support the OECD’s multilateral approach. It was obvious from the beginning that the goal was to grab more revenue from companies.

I’m tempted to say the companies that belong to the Chamber of Commerce deserve to pay higher taxes, but the rest of us would suffer collateral damage. Instead, maybe we can come up with a special personal tax on business lobbyists and the CEOs that hire them?

Let’s wrap this up. The Wall Street Journal opined on the issue this morning.

As you might expect, the editors have a jaundiced view.

Handing out money is always popular, especially when there appear to be no costs. Enjoy the moment because the costs will soon arrive in the form of tax increases. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put that looming prospect on the table… The Treasury Secretary is also floating a global minimum tax on corporations, which would reduce the tax competition among countries that is a rare discipline on political tax appetites.

Amen. The WSJ understands that tax competition is a vital and necessary constraint on the greed of politicians.

P.S. Even OECD economists have acknowledged that tax competition helps to curtail excessive government.

P.P.S. Though an occasional bit of good research does not change the fact that the OECD is a counterproductive international bureaucracy that advocates for statist policy.

P.P.P.S. To add insult to injury, American taxpayers finance the biggest portion of the OECD’s budget.

P.P.P.P.S. To add insult upon insult, OECD bureaucrats get tax-free salaries while pushing for higher taxes on everyone else.

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On the rare occasions when I write about the Supreme Court, it’s usually to grouse that the Justices don’t defend the Constitution’s limits on the federal government.

For example, the Court engaged in tortured reasoning to rule in favor of Obamacare even though there’s nothing in Article 1, Section 8, that gives Washington the power to mandate the purchase of health insurance (though that awful decision by Chief Justice John Roberts looks brilliant compared to the even-worse 1942 decision that gave Washington the power to control whether a farmer could grow grain on his own farm to feed his own hogs).

But perhaps the Supreme Court can make up for some past mistakes by accepting – and then properly deciding – a case from New Hampshire.

The Granite State wants to block the government of Massachusetts from imposing taxes on people who live and work in New Hampshire.

For some background on this legal battle, the Wall Street Journal has a new editorial on this topic.

Can a state collect income tax from nonresidents working remotely for in-state businesses? Massachusetts, New York and some other states claim they can, and now New Hampshire is asking the Supreme Court to protect its citizens from this tax grab. …New Hampshire, which imposes no income tax on wages, last fall sued Massachusetts and is asking the Supreme Court to hear its case (N.H. v. Mass.). “Massachusetts has unilaterally imposed an income tax within New Hampshire that New Hampshire, in its sovereign discretion, has deliberately chosen not to impose,” says the Granite State. Under longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states can only collect taxes that are “fairly apportioned” and “fairly related to the services provided by the State” within their borders. …Massachusetts and other states are forcing nonresidents to pay income taxes even though they don’t use public services. …If the Court doesn’t intervene, remote workers who are unfairly taxed by other states will have no recourse for redress beyond biased state tax tribunals. States like California may copy the Massachusetts and New York playbook.

Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, argues his state is one the wrong side of this fight.

In April, the Department of Revenue published an “emergency regulation” declaring that any income earned by a nonresident who used to work in Massachusetts but was now telecommuting from out of state “will continue to be treated as Massachusetts source income subject to personal income tax.” For the first time ever, Massachusetts was claiming the authority to tax income earned by persons who neither lived nor worked in Massachusetts. …Massachusetts has indeed injured New Hampshire… It has launched what amounts to an attack on a fundamental aspect of New Hampshire’s sovereign identity — its principled refusal to tax the income of New Hampshire residents earned in New Hampshire. It was one thing for Massachusetts to withhold taxes from New Hampshire residents for income earned within the borders of Massachusetts. With its new tax rule, however, Massachusetts is reaching over the border to extract taxes, thereby undermining a core New Hampshire policy. …the Supreme Court has the power to shut down such overreaching. And now, thanks to New Hampshire, it has the opportunity.

Professor Ilya Somin from George Mason University’s law school elaborates in a column for Reason.

New Hampshire v. Massachusettshas some real merit, and also has important implications for the future of American federalism. …New Hampshire’s motion…in the Supreme Court outlines two theories as to why the Massachusetts rule is unconstitutional: it violates the Dormant Commerce Clause (which prevents states from regulating and taxing economic activity beyond their borders), and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which has long been held to bar state taxation of people who neither live nor work within its borders. Both arguments build on one of the bedrock principles of American federalism: that state sovereignty is territorial in nature. States do not have the power to regulate and tax activity beyond their borders. …most of Massachusetts’ arguments rely on the notion that the NH workers in question have close connections to the Massachusetts economy and benefit from interacting with it . Therefore the state claims it has a right to keep taxing them as before. …If Massachusetts prevails…, it could potentially have dire implication for the growing number of people who work as remote employees for firms located in another state. The latter state could tax their income even if they never set foot there. This would also make it much harder for people to “vote with their feet” for states with lower taxes, better public policies, and other advantages. …The “Live Free or Die State” deserves to win this important case.

The above columns mostly focus on the legal aspects of the case.

From my perspective, I’m more concerned about upholding the principle that the economic powers of governments should be constrained by borders.

That’s the reason why I defend so-called tax havens, even when that leads to abuse (government officials engaging in everything from name calling to legal threats). Simply stated, high-tax nations shouldn’t have the right to tax economic activity that occurs inside the borders of low-tax jurisdictions.

After all, if we want to constrain “Goldfish Government,” taxpayers need some ability to escape oppressive tax regimes.

The bottom line is that the Supreme Court should take this opportunity to limit the Bay State’s greedy politicians.

P.S. This case is partly a fight between proponents of territorial taxation (the good guys) and proponents of extraterritorial taxation (the bad guys).

P.P.S. The Supreme Court unfortunately did recently rule on the wrong side of a case involving extraterritorial taxation.

P.P.P.S. If you want a practical example of what this means, read this column about the taxation of successful Olympic athletes.

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Early last decade, when writing about Spain’s fiscal crisis, I pointed out that the country got in trouble for the same reason Greece got in trouble.

Simply stated, government spending grew faster than the private economy. And when nations violate fiscal policy’s Golden Rule, that means a growing fiscal burden and – if maintained for a long-enough period of time – a recipe for chaos.

Spain managed to get past that crisis, thanks to indirect bailouts and some belated spending restraint.

But some politicians in the country didn’t learn from that experience. The nation now has a hard-left government that is going to test how long it takes to create another fiscal crisis.

And even establishment-oriented experts are worried. In an article last June for the Bulwark, Desmond Lachman and John Kearns warned that Spanish politicians were putting the nation in a precarious fiscal position.

Spain’s economy was painfully slow to recover from its 2008 economic recession, which saw its GDP drop by 4 percent. …Over the past decade, a major reason for Spain’s poor economic performance was its need to mend its public finances, which were seriously compromised by the collapse of its housing bubble… Spain’s coronavirus-induced recession could now make the 2008 housing market collapse look like a minor speed bump. …Spain’s GDP is projected to contract by almost 13 percent. As in 2008, Spanish public finances will be sure to suffer… the country’s public-debt-to-GDP ratio will by the end of this year jump to 120 percent—a level appreciably above its 2010 peak. …Another disturbing projection is the toll that the recession will take on its banking system… It does not inspire confidence that Spanish banks entered the present crisis with among the slimmest capital reserves in Europe.

At the risk of understatement, no sensible person should have confidence in any aspect of Spain’s economy, not just the banking system.

A few days ago, Daniel Raisbeck authored a column for Reason about the country’s downward spiral to statism.

The PSOE-Podemos coalition is not only Spain’s most left-wing government since the country restored democracy after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975; currently, it’s also the most leftist government in the entire European Union (E.U.). As you would expect, this has brought about a barrage of progressive pet projects…a torrent of debt, public spending, and tax increases. …The government’s budget for 2021 also includes record levels of spending after the executive raised the ceiling on non-financial expenditures by over 50 percent. …The Spanish government has also taken advantage of the current crisis to impose drastic tax hikes. These include a “tax harmonization” scheme—a euphemism for getting rid of fiscal competition—that would end the freedom of autonomous communities, the largest political and administrative units in Spain, to set their own policies in terms of wealth, inheritance, and income taxes, the last of which consist of both a national and a regional rate.

Let’s now look at a few additional passages from the article.

One of the reasons I oppose fiscal centralization in Europe is that it will subsidize more bad policy. Which is now happening.

Spain’s spending spree will be subsidized with €140 billion ($172 billion) of E.U. money, part of a “recovery fund” agreed upon last July at an emergency summit in Brussels.

It’s also worth noting that higher taxes don’t necessarily produce more revenue.

This is a lesson Spanish politicians already should have learned because of mistakes by the central government.

They also have evidence at the regional level. Catalonia has a bigger population than Madrid and imposes higher tax rates, but it collects less revenue.

…although Madrid…charges some of the country’s lowest rates for inheritance and income taxes, the region raises €900 million ($1.1 billion) more in taxes per year than the far more interventionist Catalonia according to economist José María Rotellar.

As you might expect, politicians in Catalonia grouse that Madrid’s lower tax rates are “fiscal dumping” and they argue in favor of tax harmonization.

Madrid’s leading lawmaker has a very deft response.

…the Republican Left of Catalonia, the pro-Catalan independence party that allowed Sánchez to become president, recently accused Madrid of practicing “fiscal dumping.” …Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the Popular Party president of the Community of Madrid, stated that “if Catalonia wants fiscal harmonization, they should reduce their own taxes,” a reference to that region’s notoriously high taxation levels.

Touche!

Let’s close by returning to the big-picture topic of whether it’s a good idea for Spain’s government to expand the nation’s fiscal burden.

The leftists politicians currently in charge make the usual class-warfare arguments about helping the poor and penalizing the rich. Whenever I hear that kind of nonsense, I’m reminded of this jaw-dropping story about how people with modest incomes are being strangled by statism.

Imagine only making €1000 per month and losing two-thirds of your income to government?!?

No wonder Spaniards come up with clever ways of lowering their tax burdens.

P.S. The current government of Spain may be naive (or malicious) about taxes, but there are some sensible economists at the country’s central bank who have written about the negative impact of higher tax rates.

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If you ask normal people about the biggest thing that happened in 2020, they’ll probably pick coronavirus, though some might say the 2020 election.

But if you ask a policy wonk, you may get a different answer. Especially if we’re allowed to tweak the question a bit and contemplate the most under-appreciated development of 2020.

In which case, my answer would be interstate tax migration.

I’ve been writing about this topic for years, but it seems that there’s been an acceleration. And, as illustrated by this map, people are moving from high-tax states to low-tax states.

The map comes from an article by Scott Sumner of the Mercatus Center, and here’s some of his analysis.

The movement of these industries is toward three states that have one thing in common—no state income tax. …Progressives often discount the supply side effects of tax changes, pointing to examples such as Kansas where tax cuts had little effect. But Kansas…tax cuts were relatively modest. If you are looking for a low tax state on the Great Plains, South Dakota has no state income tax at all. The top rate in Kansas (5.7%) is higher than in Massachusetts (5.0%). That won’t get the job done. …I’m certainly not a rabid supply sider who thinks that tax rates are all important. But a person would have to be pretty blind to ignore the migration of firms from places like New York, New Jersey and California, to lower tax places. …Washington State has no income tax, which is unique for a northern state with a big city. Washington is also home to the two of the three richest people on the planet (the other–Elon Musk–just announced he’s moving from California to Texas.) …Washington is also experiencing rapid population growth, which is also unique for a northern state with a big city. …last year more that half of the US population growth occurred in just two states—Texas and Florida. …Add in Tennessee and Washington and you are at nearly two thirds of the nation’s population growth.

Wow, four states (all with no income tax) accounted for the bulk of America’s population growth. That’s a non-trivial factoid.

And I also think his observations about Kansas are spot on. Yes, the state improved it’s tax system, but it should have been bolder, like North Carolina.

The Washington Examiner recently opined on internal migration and also noted that people are escaping high-tax states.

…the state of Illinois has been a laggard in population growth. It has lost eight congressional districts since the 1950s. But new census estimates show that this decade, something very special has happened. …the land of Lincoln has lost a net 308,000 residents over the last seven years… And Illinois’s rapid shrinkage is occurring even as the United States grew by nearly 7% since the last census. …Illinois is not alone. The same census data point to two other big states that are also driving away residents with similarly impractical, ideologically leftist policies ⁠— California and New York. …New York, as a consequence, has also lost about 42,000 residents in the last decade. Its population peaked in 2015, and in the time since, it has lost about 320,000. A similar phenomenon is occurring in California, …with about 70,000 net residents vanishing in 2020. …residents are actually giving up and abandoning its beautiful, scenic inhabited areas. …the same census numbers show that people are gravitating toward states that have low or no income tax.

The mess in jurisdictions such as New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut is so severe that I wasn’t sure how to vote in the first-to-bankruptcy poll.

And a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal echoed these findings.

California’s population shrank for the first time as far back as records go (-69,532). According to a separate state government survey, a net 261,000 residents moved to other states during the period…many large businesses are shifting workforces to other states. …Last year Charles Schwab announced it is relocating its corporate headquarters to the Dallas region from San Francisco. Apple is building a new campus in Austin. Facebook this fall bought REI’s headquarters outside of Seattle. Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently announced relocations to Texas. …Over the last decade, Illinois has lost 243,102 in population, about the size of Peoria and Naperville combined. …Democratic states in the Northeast last year lost population, led by New York (-126,355), Connecticut (-9,016) and New Jersey (-8,887). …By raising taxes again and again to pay for generous collective-bargained benefits, public unions are making Democratic states less competitive.

The final sentence is the above excerpt is especially insightful.

Among the states facing fiscal challenges, a common theme is that politicians and bureaucrats have a very cozy and corrupt relationship resulting in absurdly lavish (and unaffordable) compensation levels.

Let’s close with a bit of humor from the great cartoonist, Eric Allie. With all the interstate migration that happened last year, no wonder Santa Claus had some problems.

P.S. I also recommend this Lisa Benson cartoon, this Redpanels cartoon strip, and this Steven Breen Cartoon.

P.P.S. Even though it would be a massive tax cut for the rich, Democrats want to restore the state and local tax deduction. Even if they are successful, though, I suspect that change would only slow down the decline of blue states.

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In a new documentary film, Race to the Bottom, I had an opportunity to pontificate briefly about corporate tax and the Laffer Curve.

At the risk of understatement, I represented a minority viewpoint in the documentary. Most of the people interviewed had a negative view of tax competition, considering it to be (as suggested by the title) a “race to the bottom.”

By contrast, I view tax competition as a way of constraining the “stationary bandit” so that we don’t wind up with “goldfish government.”

For purposes of today’s column, though, I want to focus on the narrower issue of the relationship between corporate tax rates and corporate tax revenue.

In the above video, I asserted that lower rates did not result in lower revenue. Indeed, I even made the bold statement that revenues increased.

Is that correct?

Fortunately, I don’t need to do any elaborate calculations to prove my point. I’ll simply direct readers to the work of two left-leaning international bureaucracies.

Back in 2017, I cited an article form the International Monetary Fund that included a graph clearly illustrating that the drop in tax rates has not been accompanied by a drop in tax revenue.

This was a remarkable admission considering that the article argued in favor of higher tax burdens.

Likewise, last year I cited a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that also acknowledged that falling tax rates on companies did not translate into lower revenues.

Given that the OECD has a big project to increase business tax burdens, that also was a startling admission.

None of this means, by the way, that lower rates always lead to more revenue.

Indeed, most tax cuts cause revenue to decline (though not as much as predicted by static estimates).

The bottom line is that lower tax rates are good for economic performance and my friends on the left shouldn’t get too worried about disappearing tax revenue.

P.S. There’s also some 2017 OECD data and 2018 OECD data about business tax rates and business tax revenues.

P.P.S. Earlier this year, I cited OECD data that also included personal income tax rates and tax revenue.

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