Corporate Tax Reform: Listening to Corporate America
57 Pages Posted: 21 May 2009 Last revised: 5 Apr 2016
Date Written: May 18, 2009
In the last few years, academics, practitioners and government officials have engaged in serious discussions in reforming the U.S. corporate income tax system. Some, if not much of the discussion, has focused on maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. corporations in a global economy. As a result, some have argued that the U.S. needs to reduce its top corporate tax rate from 35 percent, which is currently among the highest of the 30 OECD countries, to a rate around 30 percent or even lower. Others have maintained that the U.S. needs to enact specific or targeted tax incentives, such as expensing of all equipment purchases. In discussing reform of the U.S. corporate income tax system, one aspect of reform seems to be consistently overlooked, ignored or marginalized: the impact reform will have on the financial statements of the Fortune 500 companies and other publicly held corporations, which I focus on and refer to as “Corporate America.” In Corporate America, the overwhelming emphasis is on a corporation’s net income, earnings per share (EPS) and effective tax rate. The different types of corporate tax reform may have a significantly differently impact on a corporation’s net income, EPS and effective tax rate. Consequently, because of Corporate America’s focus on net income, EPS and the effective tax rate, the effectiveness of the various types of corporate tax reform may be greatly impacted by the form. For example, if economists agree that a directed tax preference is needed to stimulate economic expansion, the form of the tax preference and its impact on Corporate America’s financial statements may significantly affect the effectiveness of the tax preference. As a result, in determining the form of corporate tax reform, whether major or minor reform, it is critical to look at the impact on Corporate America’s financial statements.
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