Walgreen, America’s venerable drug-store chain, is thinking the unthinkable: relocating to Europe. Not because it sees growth and opportunity there, but because of onerous taxes here in the U.S. It’s an ominous trend.
The Financial Times of London calls it “one of the largest tax inversions ever.” That is, a company seeking to avoid punitive taxes in one market by moving to another.
No doubt the FT is right. And after its recent $16 billion takeover of Swiss-based Alliance Boots, it would be easy for Walgreen to remake itself as a Swiss company.
If it did, the Democratic Party’s liberals would no doubt call Walgreen unpatriotic for wanting to lessen its tax burden. In fact, they are responsible for an economic environment so hostile to capital and investment that companies now find it intolerable.
[…]According to an analysis by UBS, Walgreen’s U.S. tax rate is 37.5% — compared with Alliance Boots’ rate in Europe of about 20%. That’s a huge gap, worth billions of dollars a year.
But it’s even worse than that. A recent OECD study says the “integrated tax rate” — taxes on capital and income — for U.S. companies is a nightmarish 67.8% vs. 43.7% for the OECD.
Many companies facing steep tax rates and insane regulations in the U.S. have had enough. They’re keeping their profits overseas. Last week, Senate Finance Committee chief Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, reported U.S. corporations now hold $2.1 trillion in earnings in overseas accounts — a massive amount, roughly equal to 12% of U.S. gross domestic product.
A total of 547 companies — including Apple, GE, Microsoft and Pfizer — have dramatically expanded their so-called foreign indefinitely reinvested earnings overseas, which let them avoid the punishing rates here at home.
[…]Not only are taxes too high, but also new laws such as Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare, a vast expansion of regulation, debt and the size of government, the federal takeover of entire industries, the bullying of Wall Street and demonization of CEOs, and forced CO2 cuts that will hammer manufacturers have made this the least pro-free market U.S. government in generations.
If you make it harder for businesses here to do business (higher taxes and burdensome regulations), then they will expand abroad instead, and in some cases, they will just move completely. How does that help create jobs here? It doesn’t.
Here is a news story from Yahoo News that explains the problem and the cause of the problem. (H/T Dad)
Large U.S. companies boosted their offshore earnings by 15 percent last year to a record $1.9 trillion, avoiding hefty tax bills by keeping the profits abroad, according to a new report.
The overseas earnings stockpile has climbed by 70 percent over the past five years, said research firm Audit Analytics. Data in its report covers the Russell 3000 index of the largest U.S. corporations.
U.S.-based multinationals do not have to pay U.S. corporate income tax on foreign earnings as long as the earnings do not enter the United States. Accounting rules also let the companies avoid recognizing a tax expense if management intends to keep the earnings indefinitely reinvested overseas.
“It would probably be nice to have this money in our country being used in our economy, but at the moment we see it growing elsewhere,” said Don Whalen, general counsel and director of research at Audit Analytics.
Conglomerate General Electric Co (GE.N), had the most indefinitely reinvested overseas earnings, at about $108 billion, while drugmaker Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) was next with $73 billion, according to Audit Analytics.
The simple answer is that Americans believe that corporations need to pay high taxes and operate under burdensome regulations. This eats into their profits, making it harder for them to grow and expand. The plain truth is that it is easier for corporations to expand and hire in countries with lower taxes and fewer regulations. Besides, who wants to be wiped out by a nuisance lawsuit just because someone spills coffee on themselves and then refuses to take responsibility? The smart play is to just opt out completely, and that’s what many corporations do – earning higher profits in more business-friendly countries.
Conservative M.P. Pierre Poilevre (Nepean-Carleton), a member of the majority government in Canada, explains how Canada embraced the free entreprise system that America has rejected, and the results they got.
Here is the speech that went viral on Youtube:
And here is his article in the liberal Huffington Post.
In a few days the “fiscal cliff” deadline will arrive and potentially bring massive automatic spending cuts and tax increases. Even if Congress and the President agree to avoid the cliff, the next crisis awaits. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, wrote the Senate this week to report that the “statutory debt limit will be reached on December 31, 2012,” which will require extraordinary measures to prevent a mass default. These measures will give the government 60 days before it runs out of money and Uncle Sam’s head smashes into the so-called “debt ceiling.”
It has long been said that when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold. So why have these debt-related ailments in the U.S. not afflicted the Canadian government?
The answer is that Canada has been practicing what the U.S. always preached: free markets, low taxes and minimal state interference. And it is working.
For example, Canada avoided the interventionist policies that led the U.S. to the sub-prime crisis.
In an attempt to expand home ownership, administrations from Carter to Bush Jr. forced banks to offer mortgages to people who would otherwise not qualify for them. Washington then ordered government-sponsored enterprises such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to insure these “sub-prime” mortgages.
According to a 2010 Report on the U.S. Financial Crisis by the World Bank’s Development Research Group, Freddie and Fannie bought an estimated 47 per cent of these toxic mortgages. Harvard financial historian Niall Ferguson indicates that the amount of mortgage debt backed by these government-sponsored enterprises grew from $200-million in 1980 to $4-trillion in 2007.(1) The government pumped so much air into the housing bubble that it burst in 2008. The resulting financial crisis led to government bailouts of the banking sector.
Big government caused the economic crisis. So we are told the solution is more big government. Funny how the problem becomes the solution.
Because the Canadian government did not impose sub-prime mortgages on the country’s charter banks, we avoided the crisis and did not bailout a single financial institution. To keep it that way, Canada’s Finance Minister has ended all government-backed insurance of low-down payment and long-amortization mortgages. In other words, if you want to take on risky debt, taxpayers will not insure you.
Governments must lead by example when managing their own debt and spending. Low debt is the result of low spending. Federal government spending as a share of the overall economy is 15 per cent in Canada (2) and 24 per cent in the U.S. (3). The numbers are not merely the result of prodigious U.S. military spending, though that is certainly a factor. Non-military federal government spending is 14 per cent of Canada’s economy (4), and 18 per cent of America’s (5).
Take a look at some of these graphs from earlier in the year about the Canadian 2012 budget. (This is straight from their government’s web site – they have new transparency/anti=corruption measures now, so the citizens know everything that government does). When comparing the deficit and debt of Canada to the United States, always multiply the Canadian number by 10 to get a benchmark to compare. For example, Canadian GDP is 1.7 trillion, and the US GDP is 15 trillion.
Canada’s budget deficit is around 30 billion, but ours is 1.2 trillion:
If we were doing as well as Canada, our deficit would be about $300 billion. But we have run up about 6 trillion in debt over 4 years! Not only that, but Canada’s national debt is only $600 billion. If we multiple that by 10, we would expect ours about $6 trillion. And it was that – during the Bush Presidency. But then the Democrats took over the House and Senate in 2007 and everything went wrong and we packed trillions and trillions onto the debt, including about $6 trillion during Obama’s first term.
Canada’s Debt to GDP ratio is 34%:
But things are even worse for the United States, now. The current United States Debt to GDP is 105%, according to official U.S. government figures. We are due for yet another credit downgrade, and should see Greece-like levels of Debt to GDP during Obama’s second term. We are spending too much, and we aren’t going to be able to make up trillion dollar deficits even if we confiscate every penny that rich people earn. (And they won’t be daft enough to keep working as hard if we did that – they would move, and probably to Canada)
What is happening to us here in the United States is self-inflicted. We are – and have been – voting to impoverish ourselves and generations of children born and unborn, by punishing those who work hard and play by the rules, and rewarding those who don’t work and don’t play by the rules. It didn’t have to be this way. We could have elected a President who actually knew something about business and economics. Knowledge matters. We can’t just choose a President who gives us the “tingles” and then expect him to perform the actual duties of being President. Competence is more important than confidence. Substance is more important than style.
In a recent paper that I co-authored with Kevin Hassett, we explored the effect of high corporate taxes on worker wages. The motivation for the paper came from the international tax literature (summarized by Roger Gordon and Jim Hines in a 2002 paper1) that suggested that mobile capital flows from high tax to low tax jurisdictions. In other words, in any set of competing countries, investment flows are determined by relative rates of taxation. The current U.S. headline rate of corporate tax is 35 percent. The combined federal and state statutory rate of 39 percent is second only to Japan in the OECD. With Japan set to lower its statutory rate later this year, the U.S. rate will soon be the highest in the OECD and one of the highest in the world. What effect do these high rates have on worker wages?
When capital flows out of a high tax country, such as the United States, it leads to lower domestic investment, as firms decide against adding a new machine or building a factory. The lower levels of investment affect the productivity of the American worker, because they may not have the best machines or enough machines to work with. This leads to lower wages, as there is a tight link between workers’ productivity and their pay. It could also lead to less demand for workers, since the firms have decided to carry out investment activities elsewhere.
Our paper was one of the first to explore the adverse effect of corporate taxes on worker wages. Using data on more than 100 countries, we found that higher corporate taxes lead to lower wages. In fact, workers shoulder a much larger share of the corporate tax burden (more than 100 percent) than had previously been assumed. The reason the incidence can be higher than 100 percent is neatly explained in a 2006 paper by the famous economist Arnold Harberger.2 Simply put, when taxes are imposed on a corporation, wages are lowered not only for the workers in that firm, but for all workers in the economy since otherwise competition would drive workers away from the low-wage firms. As a result, a $1 corporate income tax on a firm could lead to a $1 loss in wages for workers in that firm, but could also lead to more than a $1 loss overall when we look at the lower wages across all workers.
Following our paper, several academic economists substantiated our results, using different data sets and applying varied econometric modeling and techniques. Some examples of these studies include a 2007 paper by Mihir A. Desai and C. Fritz Foley of Harvard Business School and James Hines Jr. of Michigan University Law School, a 2007 paper by R. Alison Felix of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, a 2009 paper by Robert Carroll of The Tax Foundation, and a 2010 paper by Wiji Arulampalam of the University of Warwick and Michael Devereux and Giorgia Maffini of Oxford.3 A recent Tax Notes article that I co-authored summarizes these various studies and also the lessons from the theoretical literature on the topic. The general consensus from theory and empirical work is that while we may argue academically about the size of the effect, there is no disagreement among economists that a sizeable burden of the corporate income tax is disproportionately felt by working Americans. On average, a $1 increase in corporate tax revenues could lead to a dollar or more decline in the wage bill.
Conservatives and liberals have the same goal. We both want to help the poor. Liberals think that taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor helps, but all it does it cause the rich to move their capital and jobs elsewhere, leaving the poor poorer. Conservatives let the rich keep their money and encourage them to risk it trying to make more money by engaging in enterprises that create wealth – creating products and services from less valuable raw materials. In a socialist system, the rich get poorer, but so do the poor. In a capitalist system, the rich get very rich, but the poor also gain more wealth. That’s what happens when corporations like Apple make IPads out of junky raw materials. That’s how wealth is created – by letting people who want to make things keep more of what they earn. We all benefit from encouraging people to make new things and provide value for their neighbors.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Sunday the government will scrap 70 tariff items to save Canadian businesses about $32 million a year.
“This builds on our government’s commitment in Budget 2010 to make Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturers,” Flaherty said in a statement. “By lowering costs for these businesses, we are enhancing their ability to compete in domestic and foreign markets and helping them invest and create jobs here at home.”
Various sectors — including food processing, apparel, electrical equipment and furniture — will benefit from the move.
The Conservatives had previously eliminated the duty on imported machinery and equipment in an attempt to make Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturers by 2015.
The Tories say that since 2009 they have eliminated more than 1,800 tariff items and have provided more than $435 million in annual tariff relief to Canadian businesses.
The study released Wednesday by KPMG International found Canada’s corporate tax rate has dropped by more than 16 per cent over the last 11 years.
Canadian companies are actually paying less than their American counterparts.
On average, Canadian companies pay 28 per cent of their income in federal and provincial tax, well below the 40 per cent paid by American companies.
But Canada’s corporate tax rate is higher than Europe’s 20 per cent and the OECD average of 26 per cent.
Canadian corporate taxes fell three per cent in 2011, from 31 per cent in 2010.
“Canada’s corporate tax rate falls around the middle of the pack among the OECD countries,” said Elio Luongo, KPMG’s Canadian Managing Partner for Tax.
“But Canada’s general corporate tax rate is anticipated to continue to fall in 2012, when the federal tax rate will be 15 per cent, versus 16.5 per cent in 2011.”
I’ve written before about how Democrats oppose the job creation that would occur if the United States developed energy in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and the Ohio shale. Additionally, Obama has also opposed building the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have created 20,000 jobs paid for by a Canadian company. But Canada has no problems with developing their own energy resources, because their government operates independently of the environmentalist left.
As world leaders gather in South Africa to discuss climate change this week and next, Canada’s environment minister says he plans to defend Alberta’s oilsands and is willing to argue they are an “ethical” and reliable energy source.
Heading into the 17th Conference of the Parties meeting, Environment Minister Peter Kent says he will not sign on to any deals that mandate some countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions while others don’t — as his government argues was the case under the Kyoto Protocol. He is also unequivocal in his defence of northern Alberta’s bitumen production, a position he expects will be supported by Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen when she joins him at the end of the week.
“We still need to — and the industry needs to and our provincial partners need to — be aggressive in ensuring international friends and neighbours and customers recognize Alberta’s heavy oil is no different from heavy oil produced in any number of other countries which don’t receive nearly the negative attention or criticism,” he says. “It is a legitimate resource.”
Kent has made headlines in the last year by arguing that Alberta’s oil is “ethical.”
“We talk about this on quite a regular basis,” Kent says. “I think it’s important we correct where we find … misunderstanding, misinformation or deliberate ignorance to demonize, to criticize and to attempt … to create a boycott.”
In January, on his second day as environment minister, Kent referred to Alberta’s oilsands product as “ethical oil” during an interview with a newspaper reporter.
Reports immediately linked Kent’s comments to the title of conservative activist Ezra Levant’s recent book, Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands.
The book essentially compares Canada’s human rights record to those of other oil-producing countries, and argues Canada’s “ethical oil” is preferable to “conflict oil” produced in countries with poor human rights records, such as Sudan, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or Iran. The argument removes environmental issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions, from the equation, though Levant notes Alberta’s data on environmental issues is more transparent than information shared by other countries.
So in total I’ve presented three reasons why the Canadian economy is booming, while the American economy is stuck in neutral. Obama opposes free trade, lower corporate taxes and domestic energy production. When you elect a socialist lawyer, you get a Greece/Spain economy. When you elect a capitalist economist, you get Canada’s booming economy, and consequently, a lower unemployment rate. Recall that our recession began exactly when we elected Nancy Pelosi to the House leadership and Harry Reid to the Senate leadership in 2007. Democrats wreck economies. There is no reason why America cannot be more prosperous than Canada, but we have to not elect an abject buffoons as our leaders.