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New York Times Calls for Abolition of Corporate Income Tax

By: Andrew Chamberlain

How much has the debate over U.S. corporate income taxA corporate income tax (CIT) is levied by federal and state governments on business profits. Many companies are not subject to the CIT because they are taxed as pass-through businesses, with income reportable under the individual income tax. policy changed in the past quarter century? Here’s one indicator. It’s an excerpt from an unsigned editorial appearing in the September 11, 1977 New York Times.

The editorial was titled, simply, “Abolish the Corporate Income TaxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. ”:

[An] important issue in business tax reform is whether we ought to tax corporations in the first place.

Taxing corporate income is a convenient and popular means of collecting revenue. The unfortunate side effects of the tax, however, have led economists to question its value. By lowering the net return on investment, the tax may reduce expenditures for plant and equipment, and thereby stow economic growth.

The corporate in come tax, moreover, gives businesses a powerful incentive to raise their capital by borrowing, rather than by selling new stock. Interest payments on bonds are counted as a business expense, and taxed only as personal income for the recipient. By contrast, regular corporate income is taxed twice—once, when the money is earned by the corporation, then again as personal in come, when it is paid out as dividends.

Such arbitrary advantage favors one class of Investors (bondholders) over another (stockholders), and one kind of enterprise (unincorporated partnerships) over another (corporations). More importantly, the incentive tempts corporationAn S corporation is a business entity which elects to pass business income and losses through to its shareholders. The shareholders are then responsible for paying individual income taxes on this income. Unlike subchapter C corporations, an S corporation (S corp) is not subject to the corporate income tax (CIT). s to go deeply into debt to reduce tax liability, thus in creasing their financial vulnerability in lean times…

Everyone would like to eliminate the bias in favor of debt capital and increase investment without sacrificing government revenue.

We favor the most straightforward war outright abolition of the corporate income tax—what is known in tax jargon as “full integration.” After abolition, corporations would continue to transmit funds to the Treasury. But these payments would serve as withholdingWithholding is the income an employer takes out of an employee’s paycheck and remits to the federal, state, and/or local government. It is calculated based on the amount of income earned, the taxpayer’s filing status, the number of allowances claimed, and any additional amount of the employee requests. against the personal income tax liability of individual stockholders…

A good tax system raises revenue with minimal impact on the behavior of individuals or businesses. The corporate Income tax has no place in such a system.

It’d be hard to find many economists who wouldn’t agree with that sentiment. To read our own case for full integration of the corporate and individual income taxAn individual income tax (or personal income tax) is levied on the wages, salaries, investments, or other forms of income an individual or household earns. The U.S. imposes a progressive income tax where rates increase with income. The Federal Income Tax was established in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th Amendment. Though barely 100 years old, individual income taxes are the largest source of tax revenue in the U.S. es—what the New York Times once endorsed as the “abolition” of the corporate income tax—click here.

To read the full piece in the NYT archives, click here.