Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oregon's Business Taxes

Chuck Sheketoff of the OCPP writes in the BlueOregon blog about a study commissioned by business interests and conducted by Ernst & Young that compares business taxes across states and finds that Oregon in the bottom 3 in both overall tax burden and in a measure of the ratio of taxes to state spending that directly benefits business.  I agree witch Chuck that the latter is absurd: spending on schools provides a direct benefit to business, for example, and is not included in that ratio.   But as a relative measure, I don't think it is too bad.  

This logic, however, works both ways - Oregon is the second highest income tax state in the nation and this surely represents an indirect tax on businesses who have to compensate workers to maintain a competitive real salary.  This then is a problem with the measure both in absolute terms and in relative terms. 

So while it is true that direct taxes on business are low and could probably be raised without loosing competitiveness as a place to locate business, one must be careful about the direct and indirect effects of the tax structure overall.   


Chuck Sheketoff said...

You should read the COST study -- they included "indirect" business taxes, the personal income tax.

Chuck Sheketoff said...

What/Who's scale finds "Oregon is the second highest income tax state in the nation?"

Vermont has a 9.5 percent top bracket. California has a 9.3 percent bracket. And tax rate tables ignore the tax brackets and credits and deductions.

And if look at taxes as a percent of personal income, we are not the second highest.

Patrick Emerson said...

My quick reading was that they included payroll taxes but not personal income taxes. I will have another look. And you are right about the ranking - I was going by memory and I was wrong: Oregon is third in terms of top tax brackets not second.

My general point is that I agree with you that corporate taxes should be increased but that we do want to be aware of the overall incentives that attract and keep business.

Of course, one of the main things potential employees look for is good schools, so poor schools are a tax too. Just another way of saying we need to be holistic about the environment in terms of being business friendly.

Chuck Sheketoff said...

Our courts being closed one day a week does not do well for our business climate. We need quality public services to attract and retain businesses. A couple of years ago Garmin expanded at the Salem Airport facility and when asked why the Garmin person said they liked getting engineers from OSU. Well, it takes tax dollars to keep those engineers coming.

Patrick Emerson said...

Precisely. On this we agree completely. Perhaps it could be best said that we should worry less about what we are taxing business and more about what we provide businesses in terms of human capital, infrastructure and technology. And this stuff is going to take more revenue and more reliability in spending.

And this is precisely why I keep saying that if the Gov is serious about leading on green technology, he needs to focus on K-12 and higher education.