DOUG ROSS: Reform taxes, watch businesses invest again

2014-01-24T00:00:00Z 2014-01-24T15:21:05Z DOUG ROSS: Reform taxes, watch businesses invest againBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

This week's theme, apparently, is taxes on businesses. Along with the continuing discussion in Indianapolis over personal property taxes for businesses, there has been discussion of other business taxes.

MONDAY: U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly urges lowering the corporate income tax rate to about 25 percent.

WEDNESDAY: U.S. Sen. Dan Coats also proposes lowering the corporate income tax rate as part of his 2014 legislative agenda.

THURSDAY: Rex Richards, president and CEO of the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, says the tax burden on Indiana businesses has been increasing.

The top U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, said to be the world's highest. The reality, though, is corporations pay about 17 percent, on average, in part because of all the loopholes Donnelly and Coats want to eliminate.

Why would a business support a proposal that would increase its tax burden? Because then it'd know where it stands.

Donnelly spoke of AT&T's CEO telling him, "Look, what we want is certainty for a couple of years. Right now there's more cash on the sidelines with American businesses than in any time in history."

It's as if we were at a high-stakes poker table, and every one of the gamblers is afraid to place a big bet. Except in this case, that big bet isn't a stack of poker chips. It's a major investment in machinery, a new location or other business expansion, or some other business investment that translates into a lot of new jobs.

And jobs are what this economy needs to move the needle from slow to fast.

Coats, a Republican, and Donnelly, a Democrat, don't appear to be far apart on the numbers. Coats' 2011 legislation called for a flat 24 percent corporate income tax rate. Donnelly said he's flexible on the 25 percent. If they can convince their colleagues in the Senate and House, we could see some meaningful action on the economy coming from this Congress.

Even as this discussion continues in Washington, Indianapolis is focused on the business personal property tax. Richards put this in perspective.

If individuals paid this tax, they would be dunned for every toaster, microwave oven, washer, dryer, personal computer and snowblower — a timely reference this time of year — they own.

There needs to be a dialogue on how best to fund government. Not all individuals have the same ability to pay, which is why corporations are asked to chip in as well.

The key, though, is to offer not just tax reform, but also stability. Provide a stable tax structure that encourages business investment while generating the revenue the government needs for its own strategic investments.

There's a lot more action on tax issues right now, but hasn't your brain been taxed enough already trying to sort through all this?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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