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Corporate taxation slows down economic recovery in France – Tax hamonisation with our neighbours would require a 20% cut in the corporate tax burden

Media release

Paris, Monday, November 23, 2015 – In its latest study, the Institut économique Molinari shows that corporate taxation continues to slow down economic recovery in France despite the CICE, a programme meant to encourage competitiveness and employment.

The first half of 2015 saw a 48% drop in corporate income tax revenue. The decline is much sharper than the anticipated rebates. This suggests that the broadening of the tax base expected under the rebate programme is not really occurring and that economic recovery is slow in coming.

A corporate tax burden still higher than 60%

At present, the corporate tax burden imposed on SMEs in France can amount to 62.7% of earnings before taxes. Concerning corporate taxation, what often comes to mind is the 33.3% corporate income tax rate. However, this is not the only tax paid by entrepreneurs. When we think of corporate taxation, there has been a tendency to focus only on corporate income tax without considering many other taxes that businesses have to pay. Taxation also includes employer-borne social security contributions paid on payroll, as well as real estate taxes and many other minor taxes.

Corporate taxation impacts all sorts of revenue in society: wages, benefits, dividends, and investments

According to an American study, a 1% federal tax increase results in a 3% fall in output after two years. The IMF found that a 1% tax increase reduces GDP by 1.3% after two years.

Firms are the source of most income circulating in any economy. Although it is true that their income depends on their clients’ wealth, firms are the entities that conduct the actual redistribution of income in the economy. Profits are a sign that a firm generated more wealth than is used in production. This entails a potential increase in income for various agents. Shareholders obtain dividends, and employees may see pay rises in the form of profit-sharing. Any profit that is retained as corporate savings implies future investment that generates new income flows to current and future employees. Taxing corporate income is therefore equivalent to reducing all these income flows.

A negative impact on foreign direct investment

The greater the wedge between pre- and post-tax returns on foreign direct investment (FDI), the lower the incentive to undertake FDI in a given country. In France, foreign investment flows between 2010 and 2013 were 44.87% lower than in the 2000-2003 period. Flows are five times lower than in the previous decade.

In the International Tax Competitiveness Index prepared by the Tax Foundation, France ranks last among OECD countries.

Harmful taxation on productivity and employment

In France, double taxation (under the weight of corporate income tax and then again when distributed as dividends) can easily reach 60% of the gross realised gains from an investor’s holding in a company, the highest in the OECD.

Wages can be depressed by double taxation that penalises long-term investment in technology and capital goods. It makes labour less productive and therefore yields lower returns.

The complexity and lack of transparency of taxation means that its costs can be quite significant and detrimental to production and commercial activities. In a survey of the most recent academic studies on tax compliance costs, two economists find that the hidden costs of tax compliance vary between 1.3% and 6.1% of GDP, producing a tax gap of 2.8% of GDP for the U.S. federal government.

Tax avoidance is necessary but counterproductive

Tax avoidance, meaning all practices and schemes adopted by companies to reduce their tax burden legally, helps somewhat in avoiding the adverse effects of a heavy tax burden.

It makes investors more receptive to management, which is then better able to undertake longer-term projects that build up capital, increase productivity and generate new production outlets.

Tax avoidance makes a company more competitive. Labour remuneration and employment improve. This also means that shareholders will keep investing in the firm for a longer period, instead of selling their shares in a speculative move as soon as they make a capital gain. It allows for investment on new organizational methods and technology that can improve its cost structure vis-à-vis its competitors. Furthermore, the availability of greater capital reserves helps a company deal with hard times more effectively.

Fighting tax avoidance through regulation may prove counterproductive to the government. When it increases the rates and complexity of tax conformity, government gives firms the incentives to engage in tax avoidance or to invest in more friendly tax areas. Besides, it funnels funds to the tax avoidance lobby industry that would otherwise be used in production.

Quote from Gabriel A. Giménez Roche, Associate Researcher at the Institut économique Molinari (IEM) and author:

“Corporate taxation, particularly in France, is a drag on the economy. It penalises investors and later penalises employees too as companies invest less or leave the country. Companies are increasingly integrated into a global economy and are no longer limited to their original domestic markets.

In order to stay on course, France should at least harmonise its tax burden and regulatory complexity to the same level as the rest of the world. This implies a decline of a little but more than 20% in overall corporate taxation. This would merely make France as competitive as its better-performing neighbours of similar size, such as Germany and the United Kingdom.”

The study “Taxation and its negative impact on business investment activities” is available in English and in French on our website.

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The Institut économique Molinari (IEM) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization. Its mission is to promote an economic approach to the study of public policy issues by offering innovative solutions that foster prosperity for all.

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Information and interview requests:

Cécile Philippe

Director, Institut économique Molinari (Paris, Brussels, in French or English)

+33 6 78 86 98 58

L’Institut économique Molinari

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