Today the Tax Foundation released its 2014 index of International Tax Competitiveness. Of the 34 countries ranked on the basis of "more than forty variables across five categories: Corporate Taxes, Consumption Taxes, Property Taxes, Individual Taxes, and International Tax Rules," the U.S. came in #32, only a few points ahead of notoriously tax-loving France.
The chart above shows my representative sampling of 20 of the countries included in the index.
Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD. Estonia has a relatively low corporate tax rate at 21 percent, no double taxation on dividend income, a nearly flat 21 percent income tax rate, and a property tax that taxes only land (not buildings and structures).
France has the least competitive tax system in the OECD. It has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the OECD at 34.4 percent, high property taxes that include an annual wealth tax, and high, progressive individual taxes that also apply to capital gains and dividend income.
The ITCI finds that the United States has the 32nd most competitive tax system out of the 34 OECD member countries.
The largest factors behind the United States’ score are that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and that it is one of the six remaining countries in the OECD with a worldwide system of taxation.
The United States also scores poorly on property taxes due to its estate tax and poorly structured state and local property taxes.
Other pitfalls for the United States are its individual taxes with a high top marginal tax rate and the double taxation of capital gains and dividend income.
As the study notes,
Taxes are a crucial component of a country’s international competitiveness. In today’s globalized economy, the structure of a country’s tax code is an important factor for businesses when they decide where to invest. No longer can a country tax business investment and activity at a high rate without adversely affecting its economic performance. In recent years, many countries have recognized this fact and have moved to reform their tax codes to be more competitive. However, others have failed to do so and are falling behind the global movement.
This goes a long way to explaining why the U.S. economy has been struggling in recent years.
Today's WSJ has an op-ed that sheds even more light on the issue.
To be sure, not all the countries that rank higher in the index have stronger economies. Indeed, the U.S. economy is doing better than most these days, although it is only managing to post annual growth of slightly more than 2%.'
If there's any surprise here, it's that the U.S. economy is not doing worse. We are still relatively prosperous in spite of our onerous and burdensome tax code. This speaks volumes to the inherent dynamism of the U.S. economy, which is rather adept at overcoming adversity. If we only freed the economy from its tax shackles, it's hard to imagine how much better we could be doing.
We need serious and far-ranging tax reform. Now.