Tax Law and Business Growth

Thumbnail Image
Hull, John B.
Hull, Robert M.
Washburn University. School of Business
Kaw Valley Bank
Issue Date
March 2019
Alternative Title
During December 2017, the U.S. Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that lowered tax rates. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) of the U.S. Congress (2018) estimates that lower taxes will boost growth by about 0.8% per year. C corps are the big winners from TCJA as its maximum corporate tax rate was lowered from 0.35 to 0.21. This decrease serves to alleviate the double taxation on C corps that Doran (2009) characterizes as unfair and inefficient and Polito (2017) labels as arbitrary and capricious. Besides double taxation, there are two other baffling tax laws. First, researchers (Burke, 2008; Norback, Persson, and Tag, 2018) question why an interest tax shield (ITS) should exist given it distorts security ownership favoring debt over equity. Second, equally perplexing is the tax treatment of retained earnings (RE) that is contrary to the research (Noked, 2014; Nussim and Sorek; 2017) that advocates tax incentives for funds used for growth. Under the assumption that growth increases 0.78%, which is consistent with JCT and empirical research, we find that taxpayer wealth increases 5.65% beyond pre-TCJA values while total federal tax revenue (TFTR) collected from corporate and personal taxpayers falls 1.41 % and the weighted effective tax rate (WETR) drops 1.64%. Ifwe replace an ITS with a 50% RTS, which means half of every dollar used for RE is shielded from taxes, we find an improvement in that taxpayer wealth increases 6.16%, TFTR rises 1.35%, and WETR drops 3.74%. With a 50% RTS, the inequality found in the taxing of pass-throughs and C corp is reduced 0.52% from a C corp advantage of 1.42% with an ITS to a pass-through advantage of 0.90% with a 50% RTS. Finally, a 50% RTS does not alter the optimal debt-to-firm value ratio supporting the claim that an ITS is an illogical tax deduction reflecting an inefficient tax policy that also overtaxes growth.