So much for the illusion of cost-free spending blowouts. The bill for President Biden’s agenda is coming due, starting with Wednesday’s proposal for the largest corporate tax increase in decades. Can we finally drop the pretense that any of this is moderate or unifying or bipartisan?
Mr. Biden’s corporate tax increase alone is more than $1.5 trillion over 10 years, with another $1.5 trillion coming soon on individual income and investment. That’s about $300 billion a year, or 1.36% of GDP each year, assuming U.S. GDP of $22 trillion. Dan Clifton of Strategas Research Partners compares that to Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax increase of 0.4% of GDP, making the Biden increase the largest since 1968.
Mr. Biden’s corporate increase amounts to the restoration of the Obama-era corporate tax burden, only much more so. The GOP tax reform of 2017 was designed to fix a corporate tax system that was uncompetitive and convoluted. Companies paid taxes in countries where they earned the income, but then again if they returned the money to the U.S. Trillions of dollars piled up overseas. Remember the string of corporate “inversions” when CEOs moved their headquarters overseas?
Those inversions all but ended after 2017 as reform lowered the top corporate rate to 21% from 35% and moved the U.S. closer to a territorial tax system in which income is taxed where it is earned. Mr. Clifton calculates that companies repatriated $1.6 trillion from overseas to the U.S. from 2018-2020, which they deployed for a variety of useful economic purposes. The repatriation total three years before reform: only $495 billion.
Mr. Biden wants to raise the corporate rate back up to 28%, but that’s the least of his proposals. He also wants to add penalties that would make inversions punitive, and he’d impose a global minimum corporate tax of 21%. This would shoot the tax burden on U.S. companies back toward the top of the developed world list. At least nine major countries have cut their corporate tax rate since 2017, including France, Sweden and the Netherlands.
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