onsdag 30 mars 2011

Sachs: stoppa bolagsskattens race to the bottom

"With capital globally mobile, moreover, governments are now in a race to the bottom with regard to corporate taxation and loopholes for personal taxation of high incomes. Each government aims to attract mobile capital by cutting taxes relative to others. Governments like Ireland have created tax havens that drain revenues from the rest and act as conduits to tax-free Caribbean hideaways such as the Cayman Islands. The rich are doubly benefited: by the underlying market forces of globalisation and by their governments’ policy response.

Another reason for the lavish attention to tax cuts at the top is of course the tawdry role of big money in political campaigns. No country tops the US in shamelessness. US national campaigns cost several billion dollars every two years, and fundraising is relentless. The main difference between the two parties is that Big Oil tends to finance the Republicans while Wall Street tends to finance the Democrats. Otherwise, both parties are in the hand of big-money interests that exacerbate the dangerous inequalities opened by globalisation.

The end result is that both the US and UK are battling deficits of about 10 per cent of gross domestic product. The situation in the US is far graver. Total government (federal, state, and local) revenues as a share of GDP in the US are now 32 per cent, roughly 9 percentage points below the UK and 15-20 percentage points below countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which all have much lower budget deficits (or a surplus in the case of Norway) and highly effective public services.

The Cameron-Clegg-Osborne team deserves great credit for battling the UK budget deficit before it is too late. And slowly and grudgingly the US may finally be starting to close the deficit as well after years of naive Keynesianism and fiscal opportunism. The problem is that both the US and UK are aiming to do the impossible: run a modern, high-technology, prosperous 21st-century knowledge economy without the requisite tax base, largely to satisfy the upper classes and multinational companies, which threaten to decamp to milder tax regimes, or direct their campaign contributions elsewhere, if they do not get the tax cuts they obsessively crave. /.../

As a starting point, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries should urgently convene a meeting of finance ministers to enunciate basic principles of budget fairness: that fiscal adjustments towards budget balance are needed for medium-term solvency but must be carried out in a fair way; that the basic needs of citizens need to be protected in this period of fiscal stringency; that recent trends towards unprecedented inequalities of wealth and income require increased, not decreased, taxation of higher incomes, including corporate profits; and that tax and regulatory co-ordination across countries are vital to prevent a ruinous fiscal race to the bottom."
Jeffrey Sachs, "Stop this race to the bottom on corporate tax", FT 28 mars

Uppdatering 11 april
jfr: Philipp Genschel och Peter Schwarz, "Tax competition: a literature review", Socio-Economic Review april 2011. Abstract:
"This article reviews the social science literature on tax competition in three steps. The first step is to look at the baseline model of tax competition on which most of the literature implicitly or explicitly builds. The key feature is that governments in a context of open borders will engage in wasteful competition for mobile economic assets and activities through tax reductions. The second step is to focus more closely on tax-induced cross-border mobility. Do tax payers actually shift assets and activities across borders in response to differences in taxation? The main message of the literature is that the scope for tax arbitrage depends crucially on the legal rules governing the taxation of cross-border activities and that the intensity of tax arbitrage varies greatly across different taxes. The final step is to analyze government reactions to tax arbitrage. Do they engage in competitive tax cutting as predicted by the baseline model? The literature discusses various strategies of tax competition and demonstrates that different governments use them to different degrees across different taxes. It also shows, however, that governments increasingly engage in tax cooperation to reign in tax arbitrage and competition. While off to a slow start in the 1960s, tax cooperation has gained momentum in recent years, especially after the financial crisis in 2008."
Laura D'Andrea Tyson, nationalekonom vid UC Berkeley, kommenterar Sachs på NYT Economix-bloggen: "The logic of cutting corporate taxes", 8 april

Uppdatering 27 december 2011
Statsvetaren Nathan Jensen, som jag skrev om här för tre år sedan, har ett nytt ekonometriskt paper ute där han testar huruvida bolagsskattens nivå påverkar omfattningen av inflöden av FDI.
Henry Farrell, "Do Low Corporate Tax Rates Attract Inward Investment?", Monkey Cage 22 december

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