The Report Trump Officials Don’t Want You To See

In Taxes On

It’s something far juicier: a 34-page technical paper about corporate income taxes.

And it’s a document that matters if you’re trying to game out whether (and how much) enormous corporate tax cuts will trickle down to workers.

See, prior to 2008, whenever Treasury crunched the numbers on this subject, staffers assumed that corporate income taxes were borne only by owners of capital. That is: shareholders.

But toward the end of the George W. Bush administration, the non-political career people in Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis, a sort of internal think tank, began developing a new model taking into account newer research.

In 2012, they released a paper explaining their latest findings: that 82 percent of corporate taxes were borne by capital owners, and 18 percent were borne by labor. Workers don’t literally write the check, of course, but corporate taxes may discourage investment, and therefore lead to lower wages.

Figuring out who actually bears the burden of taxes, and who therefore benefits from corporate tax cuts, is thorny. We have limited data available, after all, and no true controlled experiments for changes in federal tax policy. But the answers these Treasury staffers produced are not so far from those of most other major nonpartisan tax crunchers, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Tax Policy Center.

The Treasury paper was subsequently published in an elite academic journal. Outside of tax wonk circles, the numbers were generally ignored.

Until now.

That’s because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been lately claiming that nearly all of the corporate tax burden is passed on to workers. It’s an argument that he has to make if he hopes to sell the administration’s tax cuts — which even a large share of Republicans opposes — as a helping hand for the Forgotten Man.

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