Governor’s Corporate Tax Cut Plan Not a Game Changer

Based on analysis by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, Governor Chafee’s proposed reduction in the corporate tax rate from 9% to 6%, if implemented as a stand-alone policy, would have a very modest positive impact on the Rhode Island economy, despite having a more notable effect on the state’s national rankings*. When this tax reform is then offset by an increase in a national internet tax, the results are likely to become negligible or even negative.

At face value, according the Center’s RI-STAMP tax modeling tool, the proposed corporate tax cut would result in a loss of $72 million in general revenues and produce only 240 private sector jobs. With the stated objective of paying for the corporate tax cut with revenues from a new internet sales tax**, which could mean up to an additional $70 million tax on Rhode Island shoppers, the combined effect means the state could actually lose jobs and still see a substantial revenue loss.

“The internet tax – a new tax on top of already burdensome tax levels in the Ocean State – is a highly regressive tax that will hit virtually all Rhode Islanders directly in their pockets, and is likely to reduce economic activity far more than a corporate tax cut might increase it. Do we want to simply improve our state ranking or do we want to provide real jobs for our residents,” questioned Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “This habit of taking a step forward only when we also take a step backward gets us nowhere. To produce game changing results for our state, revenue-neutral ideas will not get the job done; significant revenue and spending cuts must be implemented.”

The Center’s sales tax reform recommendations, conversely, could produce tens of thousands of new jobs with a lower budget impact.

* http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140205-chafee-plan-to-reduce-states-corporate-tax-rate-gets-mixed-response.ece

** The RI-STAMP modeling tool does not directly allow for calculation of a national internet sales tax, therefor specific revenue and jobs projections were not included in this portion of the post. With the best simulation we could conduct, RI-STAMP projected a combined effect of these two tax reforms to produce a net loss of $56 million in state revenues and a loss of 879 private sector jobs. For reasons described below, our Center does not anticipate the negative effects to reach these levels, although it is highly probably that the positive effects of a reduction in the corporate tax could be more than offset by the negative effect of the new internet sales tax.

The high-end figure of $70 million in ‘new’ internet sales tax revenues for the state was used and, given that that money has to come from somewhere, that figure was “added” as an additional tax burden to the general state sales tax category in the RI-STAMP modeling tool. It was further assumed that the Internet sales taxes paid by Rhode Islanders to out-of-state retailers and those sales taxes paid by out-of-state shoppers to Rhode Island retailers would level out; meaning that the new revenues to the state would in essence be paid by Rhode Islanders. Also, given that a national internet sales tax would not provide Rhode Island with a competitive advantage or disadvantage, the negative impact on its economy would likely be less than the STAMP projection, which is designed to be  comparative modeling tool.

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