Revenues, ‘Rithmetic, and the Power of Magical Thinking

What’s a nation to do with as-yet-untaxed US multinational corporate income? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes what a repatriation tax holiday might mean for the US economy. In short: it wouldn’t help. The Business Roundtable, a group of corporate chief executives, doesn’t want to see temporary revenues from the tax holiday used to finance the Highway Trust Fund.

About that Highway Trust Fund: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Or, read TPC’s Howard Gleckman’s latest assessment of the Corker-Murphy gas tax hike. Much like the proposed repatriation tax holiday, or a proposed cut of Saturday mail delivery, the numbers don’t add up. Maybe they would if we clicked our heels three times? The Senate Finance Committee may address the issue next week. We’ll see what happens.

Could the US learn from countries with territorial tax systems for their multinationals? Experiences in Australia, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom were instructive to academic experts, government officials, and private sector tax practitioners who considered the model at a recent conference. TPC’s Eric Toder moderated the conference, and provides a review.

Donated tax refunds for education: Better than a bake sale? Teacher salaries in North Carolina have not increased since 2008. But Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest thinks they could if taxpayers donated their tax refunds to a proposed state education endowment fund. The state’s Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the idea this month. Last year, North Carolina passed a tax reform package that created a flat personal income tax, lowered corporate income taxes, and repealed the estate tax so revenues are at a premium.

How has tax revenue changed since 1929? A new TPC Tax Fact illustrates federal, state, and local tax revenue as shares of Gross Domestic Product over time. The cost of World War II contributed to the tripling of federal taxes over the 1940s. Later, federal payroll taxes rose to fund a growing Social Security system and, after 1965, Medicare. Meanwhile, states relied more on  income and sales taxes. Those levies now each account for about one-third of state and local revenue. TPC’s Bob Williams elaborates here.

Should Arizona rely on a sales tax for nearly all state revenues? Several Republican gubernatorial candidates would phase out or immediately eliminate the state’s income tax. Republican Governor Jan Brewer thinks that’s a bad idea, making the state too dependent on a volatile source of revenue. Arizona’s state tax revenues currently total about $8.7 billion, with $4.4 billion from individual and corporate income taxes. Sales tax revenues total $4.2 billion.

For small businesses, it’s not about the taxes. TPC’s Frank Sammartino reviews a recent survey of small business and other state economic development research. Based on the evidence, “policies that assist businesses with licensing, permitting, and tax filing; provide technical assistance to help firms grow; and provide well-targeted job training and education are much more effective than tax incentives in promoting business development and economic growth.”

Meanwhile, in Finland: Its government could be missing out on income from the Value Added Tax, to the tune of 1.4 billion euros a year. Some private companies might be failing to collect all the consumption tax they should, but not deliberately. The “gray economy” of unregistered businesses might also share the blame. Finnish tax authorities are looking for VAT leaks with help from the International Monetary Fund. Finland collected about 20 billion euros annually in VAT revenues in recent years.

As for tax administration in the United States: In case you missed it, check out yesterday’s IRS-TPC research conference here and abstracts of presented papers here.

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