The White House is unable to defend President Biden’s claim that tax increases will fix inflation.
Biden has proposed raising the federal corporate income tax rate to 28% — higher than China’s 25% rate and higher than the European nation average rate of 19%.
Biden’s tax increase will not fix inflation. The tax will hit households in the form of higher prices, higher utility bills, and slower wage growth.
Price hikes: Americans know they will bear the brunt of a corporate tax increase, and a landmark 2020 study found “significant effects of corporate taxes on prices” and that “approximately 31% of corporate tax incidence falls on consumers.”
Higher Utility Bills: Households are served by utility companies required by state utility commissions to build the cost of taxes into their billing rates. Higher corporate taxes = higher utility billing rates. Americans for Tax Reform has a 50-state compilation of hundreds of documented examples here and a compilation of local news reports here. So if Biden and congressional Democrats raise the corporate rate, they’ll have to explain why they raised utility bills even higher.
Slower Wage Growth: Corporate income tax increases hit workers where it hurts. The White House cannot deny the economic science:
The Joint Committee on Taxation recently testified that 25% of the burden of the corporate tax is borne by labor in terms of diminished wage growth. Testifying before the House Ways & Means Committee, JCT Chief of Staff Thomas A. Barthold said:
“Literature suggests that 25% of the burden of the corporate tax may be borne by labor in terms of diminished wage growth.”
A 2012 Harvard Business Review piece by Mihir A. Desai notes that raising the corporate tax lands “straight on the back” of the American worker:
“Because capital is mobile, high tax rates divert investment away from the U.S. corporate sector and toward housing, noncorporate business sectors, and foreign countries. American workers need that capital to become more productive. When it’s invested elsewhere, real wages decline, and if product prices are set globally, there is no place for the corporate tax to land but straight on the back of the least-mobile factor in this setting: the American worker.”
According to the Stephen Entin of the Tax Foundation, workers bear an estimated 70 percent of the corporate income tax. He wrote in 2017:
“Over the last few decades, economists have used empirical studies to estimate the degree to which the corporate tax falls on labor and capital, in part by noting an inverse correlation between corporate taxes and wages and employment. These studies appear to show that labor bears between 50 percent and 100 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax, with 70 percent or higher the most likely outcome.”
A 2012 paper at the University of Warwick and University of Oxford found that a $1 increase in the corporate tax reduces wages by 92 cents in the long term. This study was conducted by Wiji Arulampalam, Michael P. Devereux, and Giorgia Maffini and studied over 55,000 businesses located in nine European countries over the period 1996-2003:
“We identify this direct shifting through cross-company variation in tax liabilities, conditional on value added per employee. Our central estimate is that $1 of additional tax reduces wages by 92 cents in the long run. The incidence of a $1 fall in value added is smaller, consistent with our wage bargaining model.”
A 2015 study by Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur found that a 1 percent increase in corporate tax rates leads to a 0.5 percent decrease in wage rates. The study analyses 66 countries over 25 years and concludes that workers could see a greater reduction in wages than the federal government raises in new revenue from a corporate income tax increase:
“We find, controlling for other macroeconomic variables, that wages are significantly responsive to corporate taxation. Higher corporate tax rates depress wages. Using spatial modelling techniques, we also find that tax characteristics of neighbouring countries, whether geographic or economic, have a significant effect on domestic wages.”
A 2006 study by William Randolph of the Congressional Budget Office found that 74% of the corporate tax is borne by domestic labor:
“Burdens are measured in a numerical example by substituting factor shares and output shares that are reasonable for the U.S. economy. Given those values, domestic labor bears slightly more than 70 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax.”
A 2007 study published by the Kansas City Fed estimated that a 1 percentage point increase in the marginal corporate tax rate decreases annual wages by 0.7 percent. Researcher R. Alison Felix concluded that the wage reductions are over four times the amount of collected corporate tax revenue:
“The empirical results presented here suggest that the incidence of corporate taxation is more than fully borne by labor. I estimate that a one percentage point increase in the marginal corporate tax rate decreases annual wages by 0.7 percent. The magnitude of the results predicts that the decrease in wages is more than four times the amount of the corporate tax revenue collected.”
Even the left-leaning Tax Policy Center estimates that 20 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax is borne by labor:
“In calculating distributional effects, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC) assumes investment returns (dividends, interest, capital gains, etc.) bear 80 percent of the burden, with wages and other labor income carrying the remaining 20 percent.”
It is no wonder the White House is unable to explain the President’s tweet. Let’s roll the tape: