Why is Washington Calling for Corporate Tax Reform?Posted February 2nd, 2011
Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? Presents discussion on Federal corporate income tax reform as noted in the President’s State of the Union address. Provides an overview of the current corporate tax situation from a macroeconomic level.
President Obama recently targeted corporate tax rates in his State of the Union address. “It makes no sense, and it has to change”. “Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years — without adding to our deficit. It can be done.”
Here’s why some politicians in Washington are calling for reform:
Although America has one of the highest maximum corporate tax rates throughout industrialized nations, many large corporations pay only a fraction of the maximum rate. In a study by a New York University Professor, the data shows that a great number of public companies are paying around half, or even less, than the maximum corporate rate.
Below is a chart adapted from the study showing just how low the effective tax rates are for some major corporations (information compiled from over 7000 publicly traded companies): 
Industry No of Companies Effective Federal Rate
Electric Utilities 24 33.8%
Retail Automotive 15 32.7
Trucking 33 30.9
Railroad 15 27.4
Tobacco 12 26
Securities brokerage 30 20.5
Banking 481 17.5
Petroleum producing 198 11.3
Medical supplies 264 11.2
Computer software/services 333 10.1
Internet 239 5.9
Drug 337 5.6
Biotechnology 121 4.5
Further evidence of low corporate taxes actually paid is shown rates paid by companies compiling the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index. Of the 500 companies, “115 paid a total corporate tax rate — both federal and otherwise — of less than 20 percent over the last five years”, according to an analysis by The New York Times.  “Thirty-nine of those companies paid a rate less than 10 percent.”
The Times also recently spotlighted Carnival Cruises as paying a mere 1.1% total tax over the last five years on $11.3 billion in profits.  The Publication cites other low tax paying corporations including, Boeing which paid a total tax rate of just 4.5 percent over the last 5 years; Southwest Airlines paid 6.3 percent; Yahoo 7 percent; Prudential Financial, 7.6 percent; General Electric, 14.3 percent. 
Some tax professionals attribute the significant tax breaks to companies who have operations offshore in low tax jurisdictions or make heavy tax deductible expenditures. Other companies however, “simply seems to have become expert at avoiding taxes.”
The Times notes, “G.E. is so good at avoiding taxes that some people consider its tax department to be the best in the world, even better than any law firm’s”. 
Tomorrow’s blogticle will continue our discussion on additional changes and hot topics in 2011.
We invite your opinions and comments by posting them below, or by calling the Panel of Experts.
 Professor Aswath Damodaran. NYU. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/01/28/us/politics/28tax-graphic.html?ref=politics.
David Leonhardt. The Paradox of Corporate Taxes. New York Times. 2/1/2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/business/economy/02leonhardt.html?src=me. Last Accessed 2/1/2011.