U.S. Corporate Profits and Investment Historically

Low corporate taxes do not correlate with an increase in investment measures that help most people.


As can be seen, there is no evidence that higher corporate profits are associated with an increase in investment. In fact, the peak investment share of GDP was reached in the early 1980s when the after-tax profit share was near its post war low. Investment hit a second peak in 2000, even as the profit share was falling through the second half of the decade. The profit share rose sharply in the 2000s, even as the investment share stagnated. In short, you need a pretty good imagination to look at this data and think that increasing after-tax profits will somehow cause firms to invest more.

Having said this, there is a good argument for reforming the tax code in a way the reduces the opportunities for gaming. The tax avoidance industry is both an enormous waste and an important source of inequality. The resources spent on avoiding taxes, in the form of lawyers, accountants, and corporate engineering, are a complete waste from an economic standpoint. Also running tax avoidance scams allows some people to get very rich. The private equity industry is to a large extent a tax avoidance scam.