Biden corporate tax hike would have little impact on business: Wharton study

The proposed increase to the corporate tax rate in President Joe Biden’s landmark infrastructure plan will not lead to a significant reduction in business investment, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Of utmost interest to Wall Street is Biden’s plan to hike the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% in what would amount to a partial rollback of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.

Wharton estimates that raising the corporate rate to 28% would generate an additional $891.6 billion from 2022 to 2031 and, perhaps surprisingly, have little impact on business investment in the near term.

The school explained that’s because corporations with significant capital investments may opt to defer a tax incentive known as bonus depreciation to years when the Biden hikes may take effect.

Bonus depreciation allows companies to immediately deduct a large chunk of the purchase price of certain assets, like capital equipment, instead of marking its value down over several years. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts doubled the bonus depreciation deduction to 100% from 50% for qualified property.

“Raising the statutory corporate tax rate is expected to increase corporate investment in the near-term,” the Wharton researchers wrote. “Under the current-law regime of accelerated depreciation, marginal effective tax rates on corporate investment are low regardless of the headline rate. As a result, raising the corporate tax rate does not meaningfully affect the normal return on investment, instead taxing rents and returns from existing capital.”

Neither the White House nor the Treasury Department immediately responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

Still, Wharton found that the negligible to positive impact of a corporate rate hike would be offset if Congress approves the American Job Plan’s minimum tax on book income, which would reduce the value of depreciation deductions.

The infrastructure plan marks Biden’s first in-depth tax proposal since he took office earlier this year. The mammoth plan is expected to undergo significant changes as it moves through Congress, where Republicans are united in their opposition to the tax increases.

Democrats, if they opt to pursue the infrastructure plan via budget reconciliation, will need almost unanimous backing from their caucus to pass it without support from the GOP. But even Democratic support remains in question after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., made clear earlier this week that he isn’t a fan of hiking the corporate rate to 28%.

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