It’s Not Your Company

Seattle wants to charge a head tax on businesses operating in the city, a tax whose amount would be just what it sounds like—a tax based on the number of hours worked by each employee the business has on its payroll.

In response to the proposal, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, paused construction on a 17-story office tower in downtown Seattle.

In response to Amazon, the Left in Seattle, spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union-backed activist gang—Working Washington—wants Amazon charged with a felony.

Taxes and Deduction Caps

New York thinks it’s found a way around the tax reform act that cut Federal income taxes and capped the deduction taxpayers can take for State and Local Taxes (vis., State income and property taxes).

The idea, which became law last month, creates a new optional payroll tax that shifts the state and local tax deduction from individuals who can no longer fully take it to businesses that can.

However,

Employers are worried about compliance costs, interactions with union contracts, complexity across state lines, and the difficulty of explaining to workers how a plan that might lead to smaller pay raises still puts more money in their pockets.

It Still Is

The Supreme Court is hearing a case, South Dakota v Wayfair Inc, wherein South Dakota is looking to overturn a generation-old ruling that exempts out of state retailers from State sales taxes unless the retailers also have a physical presence in the State.  I wrote about one aspect of the matter here among other places.

Here’s another, more critical aspect of the matter [emphasis added].

In a 1992 mail-order catalog case [Quill Corp v North Dakota], the court held that, absent congressional approval, states could impose tax-collection duties only on retailers with a “physical presence” within their borders. Congress, with its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, was the place to balance state revenue needs with burdens on business, the court said at the time.

State Taxation of Internet Businesses

The Supreme Court is hearing a case, South Dakota v Wayfair Inc, that seeks to overturn an older precedent that prevents States from taxing businesses doing business in the State that don’t have a physical presence there.  South Dakota is claiming that

…the 1992 precedent harms state treasuries and disadvantages taxpaying home-grown businesses.

That argument might hold water if the States were powerless. They’re not. There’s nothing at all preventing them from lowering the tax rates they impose on the brick-and-mortar and home-grown businesses resident in those States so they can compete. There’s nothing at all preventing the States from lowering their spending rates and thereby protecting their treasuries.

Tax Cuts, Deficits, and Economic Growth

The hype is that the tax cuts enacted at the end of last year will lead to trillion dollar Federal government deficits.

On the other hand, there’s this bit about economic growth in the CBO’s report that also carried that deficit forecast [emphasis in the original].

  • Last June, the CBO said GDP growth for 2018 would be just 2%. Now it figures growth will be 3.3%—a significant upward revision. It also boosted its forecast for 2019 from a meager 1.5% to a respectable 2.4%.
  • [T]he CBO now expects GDP to be $6.1 trillion bigger by 2027 than it did before the tax cuts.

Taxing vs Spending

In a Wall Street Journal piece about Tennessee’s required closure of failing bridges problem, a Leake County Democrat supervisor, Joe Andy Helton, had this:

…he was frustrated by politicians being afraid to raise taxes—even to pay for basic services like roads and bridges.

“There’s only but one way to fix things on the local, state or federal level and that’s taxes,” he said.

Of course. Reallocating spending is utterly inconceivable to him.

The two bridges in Helton’s county that must be closed until repaired would cost, at most, a bit over a half-million dollars, together.  That’s not pocket money for a rural county like Leake, but it’s not that much, either.  County and State spending could be (re)directed toward the repairs.

Messaging and the Midterms

Here’s a bit about income taxes, via Laura Saunders in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.

For 2018, households in the top 20% will have income of about $150,000 or more and 52% of total income, about the same as in 2017. But they will pay about 87% of income taxes, up from about 84% last year.

And

[T]he lower 60% of households, who have income up to about $86,000, receive about 27% of income. As a group, this tier will pay no net federal income tax in 2018 vs. 2% of it last year.

And this:

Credit Reports and Tax Liens

The thee major credit reporting firms, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, are moving to eliminate records of tax liens from their credit data and credit reports.

The three companies, which provide vital, behind-the-scenes services in consumer credit, have been grappling with class-action lawsuits over their handling of consumers’ tax liens and judgment information.

This is a mistake.  The right answer is to defend, actively, those suits that are wrong, rather than to surrender to the extortion of lawfare, and to correct the mishandlings of the tax liens in their data and reports.

The Anti-Competitive EU

Now the European Commission wants to tax “behemoth” digitally-oriented multinational companies for doing business within the EU.  The only companies that fit the EC’s definition of behemoth—large firms with annual worldwide revenue above €750 million ($922 million) and annual taxable EU revenues above €50 million ($61.5 million)—are American companies like Alphabet through its Google subsidiary, Apple, and Amazon.com.

That taxable EU revenue is key here.

The EU says these firms have exploited loopholes in tax laws and managed to lower their tax bills by shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions within the EU such as Ireland and Luxembourg.

I am Shocked, Shocked

Recall Amazon.com’s playing off of several cities against each other in order to maximize the tax breaks and other returns that company might get for building its second headquarters in the “winning” city.  Now we discover this in the offing:

US cities vying for Amazon.com Inc’s second headquarters risk facing an unexpected consequence to victory: other companies will demand the same hefty tax breaks conferred on the online retail giant.

How amazing is that?  Other companies want in on the goodies.

I’m not shocked at that; I’m shocked that those cities’ managers didn’t see this coming.  Their lack of anticipation speaks poorly of their ability to respond to those demands.