A Case for Higher Corporate Tax Rates

20 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2020 Last revised: 14 Jan 2021

See all articles by Edward G. Fox

Edward G. Fox

University of Michigan Law School

Zachary D. Liscow

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: July 21, 2020


In this report, Fox and Liscow argue that, while conventional wisdom holds that we should lower taxes on corporations because of international competition, two recent changes militate in favor of higher corporate taxes, which would close the deficit, fund social programs, and reduce inequality. First, changes in tax law have increasingly targeted the corporate tax at economic “rents,” the supersized returns that businesses receive when they enjoy advantages like market power. Because taxing rents is progressive and does little to harm economic activity, a higher rate is justified. Second, shifts in the American economy have allowed companies to earn more economic rents, increasing the revenue a tax on rents could raise — and increasing the appeal of the tax as a deterrent to harmful behaviors like lobbying government officials to get or maintain market power. Although the authors cannot say exactly what the corporate rate should be, principally because the international dimension remains so important, they offer reasons to favor a higher rate and describe reforms that could help ease the adoption of higher, but still efficient, taxes on corporate returns. Fox and Liscow suggest that, at minimum, proponents of lower corporate tax rates present an incomplete picture and that the “lower corporate tax rates” conclusion is a nonobvious one.

Keywords: corporate tax, rents, international competition, antitrust, inequality

JEL Classification: H21, H25, L41, F21, G31

Suggested Citation

Fox, Edward G. and Liscow, Zachary D., A Case for Higher Corporate Tax Rates (July 21, 2020). Tax Notes, Volume 167, Number 12 ■ June 22, 2020, U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 20-022, U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 680, Yale Law & Economics Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3657324

Edward G. Fox

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Zachary D. Liscow (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

127 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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