Report explodes myth of high business taxes in Iowa

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership released a must-read report yesterday by economist Peter Fisher. Facts don’t support political rhetoric about a supposedly unfriendly tax environment for Iowa business, Fisher demonstrates:

Whether one focuses only on the corporate income tax, or the whole range of taxes falling on business, Iowa’s state and local taxes are well below average, and have been for some time.

Iowa’s corporate income tax in recent years has been considerably lower than the national average level of taxation and lower than all but 11 states. How can this be when the top tax rate – 12 percent – is the highest in the nation? The answer is simple: That 12 percent tax rate is applied to only a small portion of a company’s profits in Iowa. Iowa is one of only four states that allows a portion of federal corporate income taxes to be deducted from income. On top of this, Iowa determines how much of a multi-state firm’s profits are taxable in Iowa solely on the basis of sales in Iowa. The majority of states take into account a firm’s payroll and property in the state as well as sales. As a result, many large corporations selling nationally and worldwide earn substantial profits on Iowa operations but pay taxes on only a small fraction of those profits. Finally, Iowa offers a range of generous tax credits that further reduce corporate tax liability.

I recommend reading the full report, Corporate Taxes and State Economic Growth (pdf file) or at least the two-page backgrounder. While you’re on the Iowa Fiscal Partnership’s site, check out the many other valuable reports they have published in recent years. For instance, last month’s report showed why “additional cuts to essential public services are not needed to balance the 2011-12 [Iowa] budget.” The Iowa Policy Project, which is part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership, is on Twitter here.

After the jump I’ve posted a few excerpts highlighting key conclusions from Fisher’s latest research. Keep these facts in mind next time you hear Iowa Republicans claim that we “can’t afford” a modest raise for state employees, continued investment in preschool or any growth in K-12 education budgets.

UPDATE: Agree 100 percent with what Fisher told Iowa Independent:

“Revenues are improving, in spite of the drain already in place by business breaks. A responsible budget does not include new breaks, especially when we know that the services provided by state and local government are important to a thriving business climate,” Fisher said. “We should be looking for ways to avoid cuts in services that will actually hurt Iowa jobs and the Iowa economy.”

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

There aren’t many political events during the second half of December, but there’s plenty going on during the next couple of weeks. Event details are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

If I can shake this cold I plan to attend the Culver-Judge holiday party this Saturday. Any other Bleeding Heartland readers going?

State Representative Chris Rants and Jonathan Narcisse have already started their debate series. You can view the schedule and download mp3s of the debates here.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

I’m looking forward to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner this weekend. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t be there in person. The Iowa branch of Organizing for America is having a grand opening on Saturday as well, right before the JJ dinner.

Details for those and other events are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know if something I’ve left out.

Linn County Dems: Don’t forget that November 24 is the special election in Iowa House district 33.

One more “save the date”: the Culver-Judge campaign’s holiday party will be on Saturday, December 5 at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Tickets are just $35 for an individual, $10 for students and $50 for a family. Call 515-244-5151 or go to www.chetculver.com for more information.

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Property tax cuts are the wrong response to flooding

Via the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Wednesday, I learned about the Iowa Fiscal Partnership and its analysis of potential policy responses to this summer’s flooding in Iowa.

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint budget and tax policy analysis initiative of two nonpartisan, nonprofit  organizations, the Iowa Policy Project in Mount Vernon/Iowa City and the Child & Family Policy Center in Des  Moines.

The partnership issued reports this week that are worth reading, which are available here. One argues that “Tax policy is likely to fail as an efficient or effective response to Iowa’s flooding disaster and moves to rebuild.”

“As this report shows, property tax cuts may seem to be an easy choice, but their help to individual  property owners will be marginal in many cases, and they will be poorly targeted and waste resources  that can be better used in other ways,” Elias said.

  Elias said property-tax changes are not timely because they don?t get resources quickly into the hands  of flood victims most in need of help, and not targeted well, noting renters in particular probably would  receive no help.

 “Tax policy should not be the first choice for policy responses, and there are serious questions of whether it  should wind up as part of the mix at all,” Osterberg added.

A press release summarizing the findings of that report is after the jump.

Other research of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership goes over the principles that should guide our response to the flooding:

 David Osterberg, executive director of the IPP, said the Cedar Rapids data point to the need for  state policy makers to chart flood responses based on principles similar to those accepted for economic  stimulus. One of the two reports sets out those principles as guidelines for flood response.

  “Policies must be timely, targeted and transitional,” Osterberg said. “They have to be implemented  when they can effectively help, they have to be able to reach those most directly affected and in need of  assistance, and they need to be temporary with time-specific goals.

  “Everyone involved in the ongoing and coming policy discussion needs to recognize the validity of a  principles-based response, developed on the experiences of other states that have coped with disasters. This  approach not only will best serve Iowa residents, but help us to provide a good example for the future.”

I hope the legislature will consider these recommendations when lawmakers address flood relief and reconstruction in the next session. I predict that the Republican Party will push tax cuts as the centerpiece of flood relief.

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