Illinois continues to struggle with its budget. The state’s most recent stopgap budget expired on December 31, 2016. To perhaps break up the political logjam, Illinois senators of both political parties have begun...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Tax Inversions are a Symptom, Corporate Tax Reform is the...
Tax Inversions are a Symptom, Corporate Tax Reform is the Cure
Washington legislators are introducing bills to stop “tax inversions,” or the process by which corporations merge with foreign companies and move abroad to lower corporate tax burdens. This follows Medtronic’s recent inversion and comes as Walgreen Co. shareholders exert pressure on the Illinois-based corporation to do the same.
Recent legislative proposals aim to keep corporations in the U.S. and to stop the erosion of the nation’s corporate tax base. Senator Dick Durbin has introduced a bill that would provide a tax credit of $1,200 per employee to any corporation that stays in the U.S., while Senator Carl Levin has proposed legislation that would place a two year moratorium on corporate inversions. And indeed, the revenue implications are significant: Medtronic stands to save around $4 billion annually in taxes with its move, while Walgreen Co. would save nearly $800 million per year.
What’s interesting, though, is that American corporations already foot large corporate tax bills on income earned abroad. In fact, U.S. corporations paid an average effective tax rate of 27.2 percent on foreign profits in 2010, or approximately $128 billion in taxes out of $470 billion in taxable income. To put that number in perspective, that is 2.7 percent above the OECD average of 25 percent.
Still, U.S. corporations seem undaunted, and a steady stream of corporations are moving abroad —fourteen have done so since 2012. The fact that corporations are jumping to leave under these circumstances should be a sign to Washington: a more competitive corporate tax code might be the best solution to keep corporations at home.
The U.S. is one of only six developed nations with a “worldwide” tax system that subjects its domestic corporations to double taxation. Income earned by American corporations abroad is taxed once by the nation in which it was earned, and again when the income is brought back within our borders – up to the federal rate of 35 percent. When combine with state and local corporate taxes the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate among the world’s 34 most industrialized nations at 39.1 percent. This double taxation, and at such a high rate, discourages saving that promotes business investment, hiring, and production.
Instead of lambasting corporations for fleeing the U.S. and its punitive corporate tax code, Congress might have better success keeping corporations in the United States if they address the root of these tax inversions. Lowering the corporate rate to the OECD average and abandoning worldwide taxation in favor of a territorial system would be a suitable start.
Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.