Brutal Assault on Reason Season is underway. Elections depress me. Arnold Kling sums up my feelings:
To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.
Very few of us are in a position to have more than intuitions on the great issues of the day. Rarely are voters health-care economists, trade experts, military or foreign policy specialists, etc., and most of us have little basis to tell when the politicians are lying about these issues (though that is a good default assumption). Doing taxes for a living, though, I feel competent to identify bogus tax claims by politicians. William McBride does so in a Tax Policy Blog Post, U.S. Corporate Tax Revenue is Low Because High Taxes Have Shrunk the Corporate Sector.
He quotes the U.S. Senate’s only unabashed socialist, Bernie Sanders:
“Want to better understand why we have a federal deficit? In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for 33 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in less than 9 percent. It’s time for real tax reform.”
There is a truly brutal assault on reason, and Mr. McBride fights back:
The share of U.S. business profits attributable to pass-through businesses has grown dramatically as well, as they now represent more than 60 percent of all U.S. business profits. The second chart below shows that C corporation profits, while extremely volatile, have generally trended downward in recent decades, while the profits of S corporations and partnerships have trended upwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, C corporation profits were about 8 percent of GDP, while partnership profits were about 1 percent and S corporation profits were virtually nil. Now C corporation profits hover around 4 percent of GDP (4.7 percent in 2011), while partnership profits are almost at the same level (3.7 percent in 2011) and S corporation profits are not far behind (2.4 percent in 2011). Partnership and S corporation profits are growing such that they will each exceed C corporation profits in the near future if not already. When commentators claim that “corporate profits are at an all-time high”, they are referring to Bureau of Economic Analysis data that combines C corporations and pass-through businesses, whether they know it or not.
In sum, the Senator’s statement is flat out false. It is completely misleading to claim that corporate profits are up while corporate tax revenues are down, essentially implying there is some mischief going on via “loopholes”, etc. The truth is corporate tax revenue has been falling for decades because the corporate sector has been shrinking, and not just by corporate inversions. The most likely culprit is our extremely uncompetitive corporate tax regime.
In other words, high rates are driving businesses out of the corporate form and to pass-throughs of one sort or another.
As we head into election season, expect the brutal assaults to continue. Here are a few phrases commonly seen in assaults on reason when taxes are involved, enabling you to spot them even if you don’t know a 1040 from a hole in the ground:
“Politician X voted for tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.”
“This tax cut will pay for itself.”
“I believe in free markets, but tax credit X is needed to level the playing field.”
“I don’t want to punish success; I want X to pay his fair share.”
“This tax credit created X jobs”
I know I’m missing many. If you point out more in the comments, I’ll be happy to talk about them.
It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so Kay Bell comes through with Avast, me hearties! The IRS wants its cut of your illegal income, be it pirated or otherwise criminally obtained.
Peter Reilly, Professional C Corp Denied Deduction For Uncashed Salary Check To Owner. He covers a story I covered earlier this week where a professional corporation deducted a year-end bonus “paid” through an NSF check that was “loaned” back to the corporation. His take: “I’m not sure that the Tax Court was right to deny any of deduction, but I really question whether the whole deduction should be denied.”
Robert D. Flach has fresh Friday Buzz, including links on the cost of tax compliance and “7 deadly tax sins.”
William Perez, When are State Refunds Taxed on Your Federal Return?
Jason Dinesen, IRS Says Online Sorority Is Not Tax Exempt. Social media apparently isn’t social enough for them.
Jim Maule, An Epidemic of Tax Ignorance. He covers one of my pet peeves — people who use the term “the IRS code” for the Internal Revenue Code. It’s Congress that came up with that thing, not the IRS.
Russ Fox, Hyatt Decision a Win for FTB as Far as Damages, but Decision Upheld that FTB Committed Fraud. FTB is the California Franchise Tax Board. Tax authorities should get in trouble for fraud to the same extent they hold taxpayers responsible for fraud.
A. Levar Taylor, What Constitutes An Attempt To Evade Or Defeat Taxes For Purposes Of Section 523(a)(1)(C) Of The Bankruptcy Code: The Ninth Circuit Parts Company With Other Circuits (Part 1) and (Part 2).
Joseph Thorndike, Should We Tax Away Huge Fortunes? (Tax Analysts Blog). “In other words, if you like the estate tax, talk more about revenue and less about dynasties.”
Richard Philips, House GOP Bill Combines Worst Tax Break Ideas of 2014 for Half-a-Trillion Dollar Giveaway. (Tax Justice Blog). When they know that the Senate will ignore whatever they do, it’s easy to accommodate anyone lobbying for a tax break.
Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reform See Light at the End of the Next Tunnel? This TaxVox headline roundup covers Tax Reform, Treasury’s plans on inversions, and the continuing resolution passed before the congresscritters left D.C. to assault reason some more.
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 498
News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Has a Fight Song and It’s As Awful As You Might Expect (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).