Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wasteful Corporate Welfare

More corporate welfare is shown to be ineffective...

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy's latest report, Rethinking Property Tax Incentives For Business, finds:
The use of property tax incentives for business by local governments throughout the United States has escalated over the last 50 years. While there is little evidence that these tax incentives are an effective instrument to promote economic development, they cost state and local governments $5 to $10 billion each year in forgone revenue. 
Three major obstacles can impede the success of property tax incentives as an economic development tool. First, incentives are unlikely to have a significant impact on a firm’s profitability since property taxes are a small part of the total costs for most businesses—averaging much less than 1 percent of total costs for the U.S. manufacturing sector. Second, tax breaks are sometimes given to businesses that would have chosen the same location even without the incentives. When this happens, property tax incentives merely deplete the tax base without promoting economic development. Third, widespread use of incentives within a metropolitan area reduces their effectiveness, because when firms can obtain similar tax breaks in most jurisdictions, incentives are less likely to affect business location decisions.  
Despite a generally poor record in promoting economic development, property tax incentives continue to be used. The goal is laudable: attracting new businesses to a jurisdiction can increase income or employment, expand the tax base, and revitalize distressed urban areas. In a best case scenario, attracting a large facility can increase worker productivity and draw related firms to the area, creating a positive feedback loop. This report offers recommendations to improve the odds of achieving these economic development goals.

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