Taxes in the Time of Coronavirus: Is It Time to Revive the Excess Profits Tax?

4 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020 Last revised: 19 May 2020

Date Written: May 19, 2020


A recent NY Times headline summarizes one of the biggest economic impacts of the current pandemic: “Big Tech Could Emerge From Coronavirus Crisis Stronger Than Ever.” At a time when most American citizens and businesses suffer catastrophic economic damage from the Coronavirus Recession, some corporations such as Amazon, 3M, Gilead, and Zoom see their profits rise dramatically because of the pandemic.

Given that most corporations are losing money but some are now earning excess profits due to the crisis, it is time to revive the wartime excess profits taxes that the US deployed in WW1 and WW2 to prevent the winners from achieving this form of opportunistic unjust enrichment. In what follows, I will first briefly summarize the WW2 historical experience (part 2) and then propose how it could be implemented today (part 3). Part 4 concludes.

Keywords: coronavirus, excess profits tax

JEL Classification: H26

Suggested Citation

Avi-Yonah, Reuven S., Taxes in the Time of Coronavirus: Is It Time to Revive the Excess Profits Tax? (May 19, 2020). U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 671, U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 20-008, Available at SSRN: or

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-4033 (Phone)

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