As you may recall, on December 3rd, we published Michael Kraten’s opinion piece If Corporations Are People, Why Aren’t They Taxed Like People? And then, on December 20th, we published responses by our colleagues Andrew Felo of Nova Southeastern University and Wm. Dennis Huber of Capella University.
But we still are not yet ready to bring our taxation policy conversation to a close! Lawrence Murphy Smith of Texas A&M in Corpus Christi recently responded:
Corporate earnings are taxed like people, as the people who own the corporation (i.e. stockholders) receive dividends or capital gains from selling stock. For that reason, I’ve always thought the corporate income tax should be zero, thereby avoiding double taxation at the corporate and then the individual level. Further, as you may be aware, the U.S. corporate income tax rate is currently second only to Japan. You might find my paper on taxes and economic activity of interest.
My point is that corporate income shouldn’t be taxed at all. In other words, if the corporate income tax rate is zero, that would not mean corporate income avoids tax. The people who own the corporation would pay taxes on all the corporate earnings, either when they receive dividends or when they sell the stock. Thus, corporations need have no income tax imposed on the corporation itself, as the owners/people/stockholders ultimately pay taxes on whatever the corporation earns.
As shown in my paper, the US corporate income tax rate is currently second highest in the world, not to mention the most complex, creating high compliance costs. Lowering or eliminating the US corporate income tax would be a boon to the economy.
These are interesting questions, aren’t they? They certainly carry broad public interest ramifications.
We thank Murphy for responding to our recent posts with his astute comments. We continue to welcome, and we shall continue to publish, our colleagues’ perspectives regarding the system of taxation in the United States.