DOR announced earlier this month a drop in the personal income tax rate effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1 from 5.3 percent to 5.25. This reduction extends to gains from investments held for more than a year (gains on investments held for less than a year are still taxable at 12 percent).
A second tax reduction also kicks in on Jan. 1, when the corporate tax rate drops from 8.25 percent to 8.0 percent.
And, as was the case with the personal income tax reduction, there is a backstory to the drop in the corporate tax rate.
Gov. Deval Patrick in his first year in office, in 2007, proposed to change the way the Commonwealth levies the corporate income tax with the introduction of a proposal to adopt combined reporting, a system that is now in place in about half the states. The idea was to come up with a corporate tax system that made it harder for corporations to shift taxable profits earned in Massachusetts to low-tax or no-tax states.
The Legislature rebuffed the governor's initial effort, but agreed to the appointment of a special commission to look at corporate taxation. In December 2007, the commission issued its report, and on the basis of recommendations in the report, the governor filed legislation to implement combined reporting.
In July of 2008, the governor and legislative leadership signed into law combined reporting. Importantly, the law included a gradual reduction in the corporate tax rate, which at the time was 9.5 percent. The rate was to be gradually lowered, to 8.75 percent effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2010; to 8.25 percent effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2011, and to 8.0 percent effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2012.
Combined reporting, in tandem with the rate cut, meant that the big multi-state or multi-national corporations would often pay more, while the in-state corporations in would in certain cases pay less, with the net effect producing a fairer corporate tax system.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Patrick Administration noted that the 2008 tax reform law meant that "Massachusetts-based businesses are paying a lower corporate tax rate while several thousand multi-state or multi-national companies are also paying at a lower rate, but reporting more in taxable income because they can no longer shift taxable profits to low-tax or no-tax jurisdictions."
The corporate tax reform law of 2008 also gradually reduced the financial institution tax rate from 10.5 in FY08 percent down to 9.0 percent effective Jan. 1, 2012.
The rate for S corporations with more than $9 million in annual receipts was modified so that the corporate rate (for a business corporation or financial institution as applicable) for the year minus the personal income tax rate for the year equalled the rate for the large S corporations.
The rate for S corporations with between $6 and $9 million in annual receipts was modified to 2/3 of the rate applicable to larger S corporations.
Corporate and business tax collections have risen and fallen with the economy since enactment of the law. In FY07, before the law took effect, corporate tax collection was $2.476 billion. In FY08, corporate tax collection hit $2.549 billion, but dropped to $2.099 billion in FY09 as revenues overall crashed. Since then, corporate revenues have recovered modestly, in line with the overall economy, to $2.119 billion in FY10 and $2.228 billion in FY11.
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