April 27, 2009 3:03PM

America Alone on Punitive Corporate Taxes

In Tax Notes International today, two Ernst and Young experts describe how corporate tax reforms in Japan have made America an even bigger outlier in its punitive treatment of multinational corporations:

Japan's recent adoption of a territorial tax system as part of a broader tax reform reduces the tax burden on the foreign-source income of Japanese multinational corporations.

Before the Japanese reform, the two largest economies had both high corporate income tax rates and worldwide tax systems. Now the United States not only has the second-highest corporate income tax rate of the OECD countries, it is also one of the few that still have a general worldwide tax system.

The Japanese corporate tax reform is part of a global trend toward reduced taxation of corporate income, which often takes the form of a significantly reduced corporate tax rate but also is reflected through reduced taxation of foreign-source income.

The details of the president's budget proposal to reform deferral are expected in the coming weeks. As we await the specifics, it is clear that the direction of the proposal runs counter to this strong current of global corporate tax reform with lower overall corporate tax rates and reductions in domestic taxation of foreign-source income.

In simple terms, Japan's reforms may give firms such as Toyota or Hitachi an advantage over firms such as Ford or General Electric in international markets.

Alas, U.S. policymakers don't seem to understand that in a globalized world of free-flowing capital we need to change our uncompetitive tax policies. At Cato, we will keep trying to educate them, but it is sad that our economy loses jobs and investment because our elected leaders are such slow learners compared to leaders in Japan, Jordan, Canada, and elsewhere.

April 2, 2009 3:03PM

Obama vs. Ontario

The left-of-center government in Ontario, Canada's largest province, is enacting dramatic corporate income tax (CIT) cuts. It announced last week that it is phasing in a reduction of the provincial CIT to 10 percent, which is paid on top of the federal rate that itself is falling to 15 percent. The combined rate of 25 percent will be far lower than the average U.S. federal/state rate of 40 percent.

The province is also eliminating sales taxes on business purchases, which will substantially reduce effective business tax rates.

As the Canadian Press reports, the cuts will make Ontario's business tax rates much "lower than the average U.S. Great Lake state, considered Ontario's main competitors for jobs and investment."

Big Three auto companies, for example, may decide to close their U.S. plants over their numerous Ontario plants if they conclude that there will be a long-term Canadian tax advantage.

For its part, the Obama administration's budget proposed a range of higher taxes on businesses, going in the exact opposite direction of virtually all other advanced economies.