Expert testimony on corporate income tax cut bill

Testimony on behalf of HB 130 which was introduced by Rep. Strickler, Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 1:30pm in room 309.

Current New Mexico Corporate income tax rates are:

4.8% > 0

6.4% > $500K

7.6% > $1Million

This legislation would lower that rate to 4.8% across the board by 2015. In FY 2010, the corporate income tax generated $125 million in revenue. By its nature, this tax is highly volatile on a year to year basis, thus making it an inconsistent revenue supporter, particularly at higher rates. Reducing rates would improve the consistency of those collections and could, if it helped attracted one or more major businesses, result in greater overall tax revenue.

According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, New Mexico’s corporate income tax was the 34th– worst corporate income tax in the nation in FY 2011. In FY 2012, that ranking had dropped to 38th.

For states with corporate income taxes, the three most relevant measurements are top tax rate, the level of taxable income at which the top rate kicks in, and the number of brackets.

This legislation would make New Mexico’s corporate income structure more competitive by addressing all three of the major factors impacting corporate income taxation:

  • by reducing the top rate by 37%;
  • reducing the number of brackets from three to one.

Why is reducing the corporate income tax a good idea?

Newman (1982) found that differentials in state corporate income taxes were a major factor influencing the movement of industry to southern states. Two decades later, with global investment greatly expanded, Agostini and Tulayasathien (2001) determined that a state’s corporate tax rate is “the most relevant tax in the investment decisions of foreign investors.”

The need to reduce corporate tax burdens is not a partisan issue. President Obama, during his recent State of the Union speech, has made reforming corporate income taxes a top priority. He said in his speech that reforming the tax code will help bring “jobs back” to the U.S and that “companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So let’s change it.”

It is noteworthy that a state’s corporate tax is levied in addition to the federal corporate income tax rate, which varies from 15 percent on the first dollar of income to a top rate of 35 percent. This top rate is the second-highest corporate income tax rate among industrial nations. In many states, federal and state corporate tax rates combine to levy the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

This is a global economy and businesses look to locate and create jobs where they have the most favorable rules, regulations, and tax burdens. Even before Japan reduced its corporate income tax rate, New Mexico was one of 24 U.S. states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than top-ranked Japan.

On the other hand, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators, there are three states that levy neither a corporate income tax nor a gross receipts tax: Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming. New Mexico’s corporate tax rate is the highest among states in the region — for example, Colorado’s rate is 4.63 percent, Arizona’s is 6.97 percent and Utah’s is 5 percent.

New Mexico’s corporate income tax as a share of total state/local business taxes is 6.6% According to the liberal Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, this is about the median.

According to the Tax Foundation’s 2007 report, “Personalizing the Income Tax”: One of the lowest-income households in America bear a large share of the corporate tax burden.

In total, the poorest 20 percent of households pay more in corporate income taxes each year than they pay in individual income taxes to the IRS each April. Households earning under $23,700 in 2004 paid $271 in corporate income taxes, compared to just $171 in individual income taxes.

As a share of their total tax burden, corporate taxes were 6.3 percent of low-income households’ tax bills compared to just 4 percent for individual income taxes. The only tax that hits low-income families harder than corporate taxes is the federal payroll tax, which is designed to pay for Social Security and Medicare.

“What this means is that cutting corporate tax rates is not about handing money to U.S. companies,” said Hodge. “It is about providing tax relief to American families, much of which will provide enormous benefits to the nation’s lowest-income wage earners.”

Cutting New Mexico’s income tax would be a move towards economic competitiveness. If the Legislature is serious about attracting job-creating businesses to New Mexico, reducing the corporate income tax would be a simple way to put our state especially relative to the myriad tax credits and incentives that are either on the books or under consideration.