Tax and spend or tax and invest?

The dog knows who’s offshore.

The Panama Papers. One Delaware office building’s 285,000 businesses. Shell corporations should be lei makers, no?

Discussions of corporate responsibility and the patriotism of paying taxes at home are always subject to the perfectly logical point that for-profit business usually require profits, so seeking to maximize their income by decreasing their tax burden is unproblematically logical. Obviously, taxation is approached quite differently along political lines, and the value of taxes as a sustaining social contract is proportional to whether one sees government as the appropriate means of providing social services, instead of business.

So, an excellently challenging idea to start this think tank with:

Instead of finding tax havens, choose to incorporate your business in places where you believe tax money is being used to do good things to for the local and state economies. For example, if Oklahoma city has an innovative early education program that it funds in part through corporate taxes, incorporate there.

Downsides: your taxes will be used for whatever municipal and state policies exist in the locality of your incorporation. A program you support may be offset by a program you don’t support. On the other hand, paying taxes in that locality gives you more of a stake, and more skin in the game, for advocating for legislative policy changes. In doing so, you risk being seen as an outside force meddling in local affairs. Then again, that happens all the time. If you actually locate your business operations in that locality, outsider status is presumably offset by job creation other economic benefits.

Upsides: Business activism doesn’t have to be anti-tax. Rather, one can rethink taxation to some degree by considering taxes as analogous to investment capital or philanthropy, depending on your preferred orientation. The returns are not monetary, or indirectly monetary, or only monetary in the long term. Reducing poverty, for example, makes crucial and material differences in personal quality of life; over time, economic benefits accrue to everyone when fewer people live in poverty and more people have access to educational and economic resources.

Many questions. Excellent!

Would you be happy to make less money if you knew you’d be receiving better (not necessarily more, but that could mean more) services as a result?

Would you be happy if you made less but felt more secure in your constitutional rights? Or, from another political standpoint, if one’s goal is to pay as little tax as possible for whatever reasons, what taxes one does pay can still be expected to serve important needs. How does that expectation play out across the political spectrum? What needs are valued across that spectrum?

How does corporate taxation get around impediments to taxation on personal incomes, in regards to social good? For example, corporations don’t have retirement plans (people though they be), so a business can still value taxes being used for educational purposes in the surrounding school district, whereas a community with many retirees may be less in favor of that use.

Question my assumptions:

What are the valuable or practicable parts of this idea?

What are the parts that need to be rethought?

How would businesses choose where to incorporate?

Can a reconsideration of taxation’s social function (and maybe changes to its methods) along the lines of the b-corporation’s philanthropic reimagining of profit-driven businesses establish a bigger picture that includes both conservative and liberal viewpoints? What else might have to occur for that to happen?

Or do we just have to roll the dice?

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