When it comes to tax reform, candidates can take cues from states

Raymond Keating
Raymond Keating

Tax reform is a big issue on the presidential campaign trail. It’s been touched upon in the debates, with some candidates offering specific plans to overhaul the system and others focusing more on tax increases to pay for spending programs.

Each of the remaining GOP candidates has proposed tax reform plans with significant positives – including plans from Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

Candidates on the presidential campaign trail also can find good examples of what to do on taxes by looking at the states, namely, taking note of the 20th edition of Small Business & Entepreneurship Council Small Business Policy Index. The index ranks the 50 states according to 50 different policy measures, including a wide array of tax measurements.

So, what do we learn from the index about taxes; incentivizing entrepreneurship, investment and small business growth; and improving the overall economy?

Consider the following key points and examples:

The best scenario is no or very low income and capital gains taxes. Of the top six states in the latest index — in order of ranking Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida and Washington — five impose no personal income, individual capital gains, corporate income or corporate capital gains taxes. Florida doesn’t not impose a personal income or individual capital gains tax.

No economic reasons exist to impose estate taxes. The top five states on the index don’t impose any estate taxes.

In recent years, North Carolina has substantively reduced individual and corporate income and capital gains tax rates and eliminated its estate tax. Consider, for example, the state’s corporate tax rate has fallen from more than 8 percent to 4 percent while the individual income tax rate has dropped from more than 7 percent to
5.75 percent. North Carolina has vastly improved its competitive position among the states, and its improved policy climate has been part of its success in attracting significant new facilities and expansion projects.

Meanwhile, North Dakota also has implemented substantive reductions in individual and corporate income and capital gains tax rates. The individual tax rate has journeyed from 5.54 percent to 2.9 percent, with the capital gains tax rate dropping to 1.74 percent. The corporate tax rate has decreased from 7 percent to 4.31 percent. While the energy industry has driven strong growth in North Dakota, state officials continue to work to improve the policy climate to make it more appealing for all industries and entrepreneurial growth. In 2015, North Dakota placed third in the nation on a Kauffman Foundation index ranking states on startup activity.

Over the past decade, Ohio has eliminated its corporate income and capital gains tax, eliminated estate taxes and reduced personal income and capital gains tax rates. In 2005, Ohio’s corporate tax rate was 8.5 percent. It’s now it is 0 percent. The individual tax rate has declined from 7.5 percent to 4.997 percent. Ohio’s broad tax reform efforts have worked to move the Buckeye state into the top 10 most policy friendly states for small business, according to latest index.

Federal efforts that follow the lead of these state reforms would constitute a huge benefit for entrepreneurs, small businesses, investors and workers across the nation.

It also must be noted, though, that tax reform must not serve as a means for tax hikes. Given the substantial tax increases imposed during the Obama administration, tax reform needs to include substantial tax relief. In the end, the U.S. needs tax reform and relief that enhance pro-growth incentives for working, investing and entrepreneurship.