Modelling Australian corporate tax reforms

Author name: 
Murphy, C

As a small open economy, Australia can expect that foreign investors will add our corporate tax burden to the hurdle rate of return that they require to invest here, rather than absorb it. This discourages foreign investment and leaves local labour to bear the final burden of local corporate tax, discouraging labour supply. This double disincentive effect led Gordon (1986) to recommend against applying corporate tax in a small open economy. More recently, international profit shifting has added to the case against corporate tax (Auerbach, Devereux, Keen and Vella, 2017). Australia further undermines the efficiency of corporate tax as a revenue raiser by returning a substantial portion of the revenue through the dividend imputation system (Fuest and Huber, 2000). At the same time, corporate tax can be efficiently applied to the returns from immobile assets such as land, minerals and local market power, leading to calls to narrow the corporate tax base to only capture such economic rents (Boadway and Bruce, 1984). Using economy-wide modelling, this paper quantifies the substantial consumer benefits from tax reforms that reduce the corporate tax rate, narrow the base to economic rents, or replace imputation with less generous dividend tax concessions. The substantial benefits of reducing the local tax rate increase if the US makes the corporate tax changes proposed by the Trump administration.

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