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Some observers have asked why we need a corporate income tax in addition to a personal income tax. The argument often made is that corporate profits eventually make their way into the hands of individuals (in the form of stock dividends and capital gains on sales of stock) where they are subject to the personal income tax, so there is no reason to also subject these profits to the corporate income tax. Some even suggest that the $4.8 trillion that the corporate income tax is projected to raise over the next decade could be replaced by simply raising personal income tax rates or enacting some other tax. This is a deceptively simple argument that ignores the massive windfalls that wealthy individuals would receive if there was no corporate income tax.
A new fact sheet from Citizens for Tax Justice explains three of the biggest problems with repealing the corporate income tax:
First, a business that is structured as a corporation can hold onto its profits for years before paying them out to its shareholders, who only then (if ever) will pay personal income tax on the income. With no corporate income tax, high-income people could create shell corporations to indefinitely defer paying individual income taxes on much of their income.
Second, even when corporate profits are paid out (as stock dividends), only a fraction are paid to individuals rather than to tax-exempt entities not subject to the personal income tax.
Third, the corporate income tax is ultimately borne by shareholders and therefore is a very progressive tax, which means any attempt to replace it with another tax would likely result in a less progressive tax system.