March 2, 2013
To create growth, unleash the invisible foot (Reihan Salam MARCH 1, 2013, Reuters)
As it turns out, the U.S. tax code does give large incumbents an enormous advantage over start-ups by subsidizing corporate debt. When businesses want to raise money for operations, they can pour their profits back into the business, they can sell shares or they can borrow. In an ideal world, we'd want business enterprises to make these decisions on the basis of what makes the most sense based on underlying economic conditions. But in the United States, we allow companies to deduct interest expenses from their taxes but not dividends on their stocks. This makes it far cheaper for companies to raise money by borrowing than by selling shares.One reason this debt bias is a problem is that it leads companies to take on large amounts of debt, which raises the risk that they will go bankrupt. Yet there is another problem: It is much easier for some companies to borrow than for others. Specifically, well-established firms ‑ for example, large incumbents with pricing power that have been around for years ‑ find it much easier to borrow than new, unproven firms with high-growth potential, which have little choice but to rely on selling shares to finance investment. And so the tax-deductibility of interest expenses and not dividends gives the entrenched corporate Goliaths that have the option to borrow a big boost, while doing nothing for the would-be corporate Davids eager to take them on.With this in mind, Robert Pozen of the Brookings Institution and Harvard Business School and his research associate, Lucas Goodman, have devised an ingenious plan to level the playing field. First, they call for cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. This lower statutory rate will make the U.S. a much more attractive destination for profitable investment projects, particularly since our current corporate tax rate of 35 percent is the highest in the industrialized world. To finance this substantial cut, Pozen and Goodman propose a modest 60 percent to 85 percent cap on the amount of interest companies can deduct from their tax bills, sharply reducing debt bias and keeping the proposal revenue-neutral. Firms that rely heavily on debt would cry foul, and for some the process of reducing debt levels would be painful. Yet start-ups that don't have the option of raising money by taking on enormous amounts of debt would find themselves at far less of a disadvantage. The end result could be an entrepreneurial renaissance, as lumbering corporate dinosaurs that had used cheap credit to scare off competitors are forced to reckon with innovative new rivals.
...that as we transition to an Ownership Society we're increasing the demand for stocks. So why would we tax corporations or favor them taking on debt instead of issuing stocks at all?
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 2, 2013 9:44 AM