Corporate America may be about to get a whole lot richer, as a proposed 15% cut to the corporate tax rate would boost earnings. While the overhaul to the tax code would benefit corporations across America, big U.S. banks like Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) would likely see the biggest gains. Yes that’s right, bigger than even the U.S.’s largest publicly traded company, Apple Inc. (AAPL), according to the Wall Street Journal.
Differences in Tax Rates
At a current rate of 35%, it would appear that the proposed reduction laid out last week by Congressional Republicans and the White House to drop the corporate tax rate to 20% would affect companies equally. However, that assumes that all companies actually pay the official rate, which they don’t.
Whether through tax loopholes, industry tax breaks, or other means, most companies pay an effective tax rate that is less than the official rate. Apple, for instance, avoids paying the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate by not repatriating income earned for business conducted in Europe. Instead, taxes on that income are paid by the company’s subsidiary in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is only 12.5%. As such, Apple paid an effective tax rate of only 26% last year. (To read more, see: Why is Ireland sometimes referred to as a tax haven?)
Wells Fargo, on the other hand, while raking in a 2016 pretax earnings about half the size of Apple’s, paid a 31% effective tax rate. Because Wells Fargo and other big U.S. banks pay some of the highest effective tax rates amongst U.S. corporations, they will be amongst the largest beneficiaries of the new proposed tax code.
Wells Fargo Bests Apple
If the proposed tax cut had been in effect last year, Wells Fargo’s $32.1 billion pretax profits would have been given a boost of an additional $3.7 billion, or 17%. In comparison, Apple would have only earned an additional $3.4 billion, or 7.5%, which would still have made it the second largest beneficiary, according to the Journal. (To read more, see: Who Are Wells Fargo’s Main Competitors?).
While the details of the Republican tax proposal are still unclear, it is clear that S&P 500 companies would on average see a nice earnings lift. If the 15% tax reduction had been in effect last year, S&P 500 company earnings would have been 6% higher on average.