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February 14 2018

The Long and Short of Corporate-Tax Reform

by Rachel DiCarlo Currie

“President Donald Trump’s corporate tax cuts are already having a big impact,” Bloomberg reported earlier this month. “So far a record 75 percent of companies have raised their profit guidance, according to strategists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Taking into account the benefits of lower corporate taxes, Wall Street expects U.S. firms to increase capital expenditures by as much as 6.8 percent this year — more than five times the projected growth in 2017.”

Republicans have seized on recently announced corporate investments, bonuses, pay increases, and benefit enhancements as proof that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is working as planned. The companies that have made such announcements include everyone from Boeing and American Airlines, to AT&T and Comcast, to FedEx and UPS, to Walmart and Best Buy, to Hostess Brands and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Last week, for example, Fox Business noted that Chipotle was “rolling out benefits reaching all of its 71,000 employees, including special cash and stock bonuses and enhanced paid and parental leave.”

Skeptics point out that many companies have announced one-time bonuses rather than permanent salary or wage increases. They also argue that most of the corporate-tax-cut windfall probably will not go to ordinary workers. As CNNMoney reported on February 9th, Morgan Stanley analysts have predicted that “only 13% of companies’ tax cut savings will go to pay raises, bonuses and employee benefits,” whereas “43% will go to investors in the form of stock buybacks and dividends.”

Republicans and Democrats will continue debating the short-term effects of the Trump tax reform throughout this election year; yet the real benefits — and real costs — of the law won’t be known for years to come. The impact of the corporate-tax reforms, in particular, may not be fully apparent until after President Trump leaves office.

Just ask Nomura Research Institute chief economist Richard Koo, who achieved international prominence following the 2008 global financial crisis thanks to his exploration of “balance-sheet recessions.” Via Matthew Klein of the Financial Times, I learned that Koo recently described Trump’s corporate-tax cut — which brought the top federal rate down from 35 percent to 21 percent — as “an extremely effective way to reverse two decades of low investment rates, low productivity growth, and low wage growth in the US.” Yet as Klein added, Koo also wrote that “it may take ‘ten years or more’ for the impact of the tax cuts to become visible.”

I shared my own thoughts on tax reform in a pair of 2017 IWF policy papers, which can be found here and here.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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