William Byrnes' Tax, Wealth, and Risk Intelligence

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

The Destination-based Approach to Business Taxation, Explained

Posted by fhalestewart on October 30, 2017

In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    


From the article:

An alternative approach has been to identify fundamental tax reforms that can deal more adequately with the new economic realities. One such approach builds on the concept of business cash-flow taxation, first proposed in the late 1970s by the Meade Committee (Institute for Fiscal Studies 1978). Originally conceived as a tax on the cash flows of domestic producers (an ‘origin-based’ tax), the cash-flow tax had many potential benefits, including eliminating the tax on normal returns to new investment, removing tax-based incentives for corporate borrowing, and eliminating the need to measure income of companies with complex business arrangements. But this standard cash-flow tax leaves in place the pressure for international tax competition via incentives for companies to shift the location of profitable activities and reported profits to low-tax countries. This shortcoming led to consideration of a destination-based cash-flow tax (DBCFT), which adds ‘border adjustment’ to cash-flow taxation and has the effect of basing the tax on the location of consumers rather than on the location of profits, production, or corporate residence.

As described in a series of papers, including Auerbach (2017), converting an origin-based cash-flow tax into a destination-based cash-flow involves relieving tax on export revenues and imposing tax on imports, in precisely the same manner as is done under existing value-added taxes (VATs). The key difference from a VAT is that the DBCFT maintains the income tax deduction for wages and salaries, and thus amounts to a tax on domestic consumption not financed by labour income, in principal a much more progressive tax than the VAT.

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