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Greg O’Brien, CPA, CTS
April 5, 2024

How Business Taxes Positively Affect an Economy

Taxes play a significant role in shaping the economic landscape of a country. They are pivotal in determining the direction of economic development and can influence the behavior of both individuals and businesses. Contrary to popular belief, taxes, when utilized strategically, can foster an environment of equitable growth and economic prosperity.

Tax Policies and Economic Growth: A Tax Strategist’s perspective 

Tax policies are fundamental tools for economic policy-making. They can influence economic decision-making related to work, savings, inter-state migration, investment, and business organization. Major tax reforms over the years have aimed to reduce distortion, incentivize work, simplify tax codes, close loopholes, and enhance the global competitiveness of corporations. However, the effectiveness of these reforms depends on various factors and may not always conform with conventional economic model predictions.

The Impact of Tax Policies on Individuals

Tax policies significantly influence individuals' decisions about work, savings, and their place of residence. Progressive individual income tax systems, where the tax rate increases with income, can help in income redistribution. Further, tax exemptions and credits often provide more benefits to lower-income earners. Changes in the tax codes can also affect decisions on labor force participation and the choice of residence.

The Influence of Tax Policies on Businesses

Businesses too, are impacted by tax policies. Entrepreneurs choose the legal forms of their businesses to optimize tax liability. Changes in tax policies can affect businesses' borrowing behaviors by altering rules on interest expense deduction. Moreover, tax policies governing how businesses depreciate capital assets can influence investment behaviors.

The Relationship Between Taxation and U.S. Economic Growth

The relationship between taxation and economic growth is complex and multifaceted. Free market economic ideology often suggests that constraining the market through policies such as increased taxes is bad for economic growth. However, empirical studies based on real-world data often fail to find these negative growth effects.

Supply-side and neoclassical models often suggest that high taxes are detrimental to economic growth. Yet, empirical evidence suggests otherwise. For instance, in the 1980s, the U.S. drastically lowered the top individual marginal income tax rate and the top corporate tax rate. However, rather than booming, income growth slowed. As the government reduced statutory tax rates, especially for those at the top, inequality increased, and income growth rates went down.

Effect of Top Individual Income Tax Rate 

The effect of the top individual income tax rate on economic growth is another area of debate. While neoclassical models argue that there are large trade-offs between having a strongly progressive tax system and economic growth, empirical evidence often contradicts this claim. In fact, research shows that high top rates are correlated with higher economic growth for most Americans.

Corporate Rate Cuts 

One of the most significant recent test cases for the theory that tax rates have strong effects on economic growth was the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This law lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. However, despite the law's promises, the tax cuts did not deliver the expected boosts to wage or investment growth.

Capital Taxation

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the U.S. significantly reduced the taxation of capital. However, the reduction in capital taxes did not lead to an increase in investment or economic growth. Instead, the tax cuts contributed to increased wealth inequality, with the benefits going disproportionately to the wealthy.

U.S. Income and Wealth Inequality 

Lowering taxes for the owners of businesses and other forms of capital rarely had noticeable effects on investment or overall economic growth. However, these tax cuts did contribute to income and wealth inequality, enriching the already-wealthy and starving the public sector of resources to build structures that lift up those who have been systematically disadvantaged historically.


While tax changes can have large effects on the economy, they have not noticeably affected overall economic growth or corporate investment in recent decades. Instead, the research and data firmly establish that the main effects of tax changes are to increase or decrease inequality and government revenue. It is essential for policymakers to evaluate tax proposals based on these measurable impacts and to consider who benefits from any growth that occurs.

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