Yes, this is our fault


While this is indeed our fault we're not going to apologise for it. The this being the insistence that we do not want to harmonise tax codes, tax rates or the corporate tax system across jurisdictions. The OECD, the G7, the EU and every other assemblage of our governors is trying to get to a system that taxes corporations "fairly". And we would very much prefer to have competition in such matters. As one whining about our stance says, we have indeed said:

In this context there should be no mistaking the fact that those who propose tax competition are the ones who are seeking to exercise control. Time and again right wing think tanks have said things like this by Dan Mitchell of the US based Center for Freedom and Prosperity[i], writing on this occasion for the UK based Adam Smith Institute:

Tax competition exists when people can reduce tax burdens by shifting capital and/or labour from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax jurisdictions. This migration disciplines profligate governments and rewards nations that lower tax rates and engage in pro-growth tax reform.

The emphasis is mine, and appropriate. Think tanks like those Mitchell works for go out of their way to defend tax havens. And what they are really saying is that tax havens should be able to use their laws to undermine the tax laws of other states by inducing the relocation of economic activity to low tax jurisdictions. This is what tax competition means, and this is what the UK is subscribing to.

We stand by this and we stand by it, the insistence on the benefits of competition, for two reasons.

The first is the entirely uncontroversial idea that tax rates can be too high. Where the good of raising the revenue to perform the (sure, we think these necessary functions are rather fewer than many others do but we're fine with the idea that there's some necessary functions of government) necessary functions of government fails to outweigh the harms done by the raising of that revenue. It's only competition between jurisdictions that is going to beat down rates to where less harm is done. Just as competition between suppliers of other goods and services beats down the price charged for them.

The second reason is a little more subtle: there are some taxes that are "bad" taxes, in the sense that they have higher costs in economic activity foregone for the revenue raised. That is, they have higher deadweight costs. Again, competition among jurisdictions is required to shift revenue raising from such bad taxes to ones that are less bad. The standard hierarchy here being that corporate and capital taxes are bad, income such less so and consumption and land taxes even less. It's worth noting that those higher deadweight costs apply to taxes on those factors which are more mobile: that's what actually causes those higher deadweight costs. Thus we want lower or no taxation of highly mobile factors of production (for the mobility leads to a greater elasticity of supply) and higher taxation of immobile and inelastic ones.

Again, competition between jurisdictions is what will provide this outcome for us. For the taxers will note that as they try to tax those mobile factors more highly, they'll get less revenue as it hightails it over the jurisdiction's boundaries.

The complaint about all of this is that by having competition then the taxing authorities cannot tax as they would wish. Yes, correct, that's the point: we want the taxing authorities to be taxing efficiently, not as they wish, and it's competition that will cause this. Thus we are in favour of competition and not of harmonisation.