Simplify Corporate Taxes

Longtime readers know that I favor a simplification of the tax code, for both individuals and corporations. Working as an actuary inside life insurance companies, I saw the complexity of accounting with up to seven accounting bases running at the same time.

Let me suggest one very simple modification to the tax code — let the IRS tax corporations on their illustrated income, with GAAP income as a minimum. All other tax preferences are abolished. The idea is this: corporations want to show shareholders how successful they are. The basis that they choose to use to show how successful they are is directly applied to taxes.

This would have one of two effects: either companies would stop illustrating income greater than GAAP, and GAAP would become more conservative, or companies would start paying more taxes.

As for private equity, they could not disclose changes in unrealized capital gains as part of their returns without being taxed on it. Alternatively, we could consider a 15% of book value as imputed income tax, with a true-up when the fund is liquidated.

As for Buffett, let him retract his statements about increase in book value, lest BRK be taxed on it.

And mutual funds and hedge funds, they are corporations also — tax them on total returns. Illiquid investments should be assumed to earn 15%.

The idea here is to strip away all tax deferral, and force everyone to pay taxes each year — this will work a lot better than the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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About David Merkel 145 Articles

Affiliation: Finacorp Securities

David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the excellent investment website ( Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and now I write for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I still contribute to RealMoney, but I have scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After one year of operation, I believe I have achieved that.

In 2008, I became the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm.

Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life.

I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.

Visit: The Aleph Blog

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