The corporate income tax system has been a focus of many recent debates about tax reform and the economy. Many economists and policy makers argue that reform of the corporate income tax system is needed, although a variety of rationales on why and how have been offered. Some argue that a simpler system with lower tax rates is necessary to encourage domestic investment, employment, and economic growth. Others argue that reform is needed to close loopholes and restrict access to tax havens, both of which are seen by some to allow corporations to avoid taxes too easily. A number of others have advocated for corporate tax reform on the basis that the current system puts American corporations at a disadvantage when compared with foreign competitors. Many believe it is a combination of these arguments that justify reforming the corporate tax system. This report presents information and research on the corporate tax to help policy makers understand and evaluate arguments presented in the tax reform debate. Many of the topics and ideas discussed here are analyzed in greater detail in the other CRS reports and academic research referenced throughout.
This report first reviews the structure of the corporate income tax. Data on which companies pay the corporate tax, corporate tax revenue, and how the U.S. system compares to the rest of the world are then presented and analyzed. Next, the economic effects of the corporate tax are reviewed—including a discussion of the purpose of the corporate tax, who bears the burden of the tax, and how to evaluate alternative corporate tax systems. The report then reviews broad reform options and concludes with a comparison of specific proposals that have been offered.