CLC finds the promised investments have never come, in fact we've seen an erosion on this front, DESPITE record profits and cash balances. I am pleased to see the CLC look into corporate dividends, a development I have argued is ripe for reform. The CLC report finds that corporations are simply redirecting their corporate tax cuts "savings" back into shareholder hands, rising dividends siphoning off the cash that was supposed to lead to more reinvestment, further EXACERBATING
the widening societal gaps:
As noted above, corporate tax cuts are not supposed to be an end in themselves. The tradeoff for lower corporate tax revenue was supposed to be higher capital investment leading to higher growth, more and better jobs, and improved productivity. Proponents argue that as companies make more money because tax rates are lower, they will invest more in capital stock. That is to say, they will buy more factories and more computers to make their companies more productive. Canada’s lagging productivity will be pulled up.
Given the significant drop in corporate tax rates since 2000, what effect can be seen? Figure 1 — based on the last column of Table 2 — shows the percentage of profits that have been simply paid out to investors as dividends instead of retained and reinvested in the company. In 2000, corporate Canada was paying out 30% of its profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.
While the effective tax rate has declined significantly since 2000, companies are doing the opposite of investing: they are paying an even larger share of their profits out as dividends. In 2010, for every dollar in after-tax profits, 49 cents was paid out directly to shareholders, and the share was even higher in the recession year of 2009. Much of the increase in after-tax profits coming from corporate tax cuts that corporations said would be invested to boost productivity is, instead, being paid out to those who own dividend-paying stocks in Canada’s largest companies. About one half of all dividends are paid to taxpayers earning more than $150,000 per year.
What you see is a clear regime, where elimination of corporate taxes has lead to increased cash balances which have been redirected to shareholders. Defenders of corporate tax cuts get quite upset when critics point to rising CEO salaries, there is no co-relation, simply a function of a job well done. HOWEVER, CEO's and high ranking corporate officials ALSO have huge stock options, holdings, so any increase in dividends is effectively a big increase in salary. Couple this fact with certain tax regimes on dividends, and it's a big win for corporate executives! Rather than invest, corporations are merely redistributing their riches to themselves and their friends, this fact is irrefutable.
The study finds a 13 billion dollar revenue shortfall in corporate taxes since this government took office. As an aside, I did support some corporate tax cuts- to a level which made us competitive with other nations- that seemed a sound goal given the global economy. CLC confirms what we already know, Canada is now incredibly competitive, perhaps the lowest corporate tax regime, depending on your metrics. What emerges is a policy which has gone too far, balance has been lost, in a irresponsible race to the bottom mentality. Given government's have also incorporated the HST, the entire thrust of which was business friendly, it is fair to ask when enough is enough. There is now a huge revenue shortfall which must be addressed, and unfortunately it looks to be achieved on the backs of ordinary Canadians.
All in the talk in Ottawa these days is about austerity, there WILL be massive public service job cuts. Given there is NO evidence of a private sector job creation offset, we will have a circumstance of NET job losses under this corporate tax cut regime. Proponents will say corporate tax cuts were never argued to create jobs. Accept that assertion as true- the evidence does show no job creation- and you are left with cutting taxes so you can layoff public service employees. That is the sorry bottom line, from which we find ourselves today, no investment, no jobs, job CUTS, the rich getting richer and services under attack. That isn't spin, that is a very coherent reality, supported by all the facts available, while proponents are left to economic theory and "you just wait" proclamations.
The biggest beneficiaries of corporate tax cuts are Canadian banks. Google "bank job cuts" and you will see a consistent pattern over the last decade. Then google "bank dividends" or "bank record profits" and you will see another clear picture. Not anti-bank, not resisting the idea that a strong banking system isn't imperative, merely a realization that BALANCE has been lost, we have lurched so dramatically to one side of the equation that we created an environment which is actually detrimental to the "greater good". Go back in time, review all the arguments for corporate tax cuts, and if you can find any scenario which foresaw record cash flows and profits, massive increases in dividends, at the same time as lagging investment and productivity, job losses, I'm ALL ears.