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Connecticut’s legislature approved a two-year $40 billion budget last week with wide-ranging tax increases to help close a $1 billion budget gap.
The changes include fully applying the sales tax to all clothes purchases and reducing a targeted property tax credit. But the two provisions that have received widespread attention are corporate tax reforms and increasing the personal income tax rate on the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.
Lawmakers included corporate tax reforms in the final budget despite objections from some of the largest corporations in the state, such as GE and Aetna. In addition to higher taxes on computer and data processing services, the plan limits tax credits and specifies how business income can be reported. Most significantly, Connecticut will join the majority of states in requiring corporations to file a combined report that treats subsidiaries of multistate corporations as one entity so they are taxed in aggregate.
General Electric (GE) threatened to relocate its headquarters and established an exploratory committee the day after lawmakers passed the final budget, and other major business interests have issued press releases conveying their discontent for the corporate- and personal income tax changes in the budget. Gov. Dan Malloy has yet to sign the budget and has agreed to a sit-down meeting this week with the president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association to discuss the corporate tax changes
GE and other corporations’ complaints have misrepresented the budget as a plan that only raises needed revenue by solely increasing taxes for the wealthy and profitable businesses. This is far from reality. An ITEP analysis found that all income groups will pay more under this plan, and the lowest-income taxpayers in the state will experience the largest tax increase as a share of income. Connecticut’s tax system is already upside down, and the tax changes included in the contentious budget deal would further exacerbate the gap between low-income and wealthy Connecticut taxpayers.
Complaints about ‘combined reporting’ are also suspect considering that GE and other major corporations in Connecticut comply with the measure in almost every other state in which they currently operates.
GE is not exactly the best poster child for so-called high taxes. The company is notorious for paying low to zero corporate income taxes. In 2014, an ITEP analysis found that GE paid an average state corporate income tax rate of negative 1.2 percent on its $5.75 billion in profits in the United States. Looking over the past five years, GE only paid a state corporate income tax rate of 1.6 percent, just about a quarter of the average weighted state corporate income tax rate of 6.25 percent.
Big business will undoubtedly continue to pressure Gov. Malloy into forgoing the good corporate tax changes included in the budget deal awaiting his signature. The state is certainly in need of new revenue to protect critical public investments, yet if any part of the plan should give him pause it should be the tax increases on low- and moderate-income families rather than the small ask for wealthy taxpayers and profitable corporations to pay a little more.