Putting Corporate Tax Reform in Perspective

Since assuming office in January, the Trump Administration has taken steps to enact policies with a wide range of impacts in the areas of healthcare, environment, immigration, and the economy. Economic policies have not been at the front and center of the media or public discourse lately, but understanding what may come is still extremely important. Potential changes in economic policies may include personal income tax cuts, corporate tax reform, and federal budget shifts, each of which can be quite complex. In this blog, we take a closer look at the different proposals for corporate tax reform.

The Economic Effect of the Proposed Economic Policy of the Trump Administration

With the election over, Chmura evaluates the economic effects of the proposed economic policy changes by the Trump Administration. The major policy initiatives involve lowering corporate and individual income taxes, reducing business regulations, increasing military spending and infrastructure investment, and changing trade policies. If implemented, the Trump economic policies will have widespread impacts on the economy, affecting personal consumption, business investment, government spending, as well as imports and exports. Those policies can boost short-term economic growth, yet the long-term effects are less certain.

Internal Rate of Return (IRR) Tends to Overstate Education Return on Investment (ROI)

With dwindling government appropriations for higher education and elevated student loan default rates, more colleges and universities are conducting Return on Investment (ROI) analysis to demonstrate that higher education is a sound investment for students, taxpayers, and society at large. Those institutions include for-profit colleges, community colleges, and public and private not-for-profit four-year colleges.

Demystifying GDP

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the most widely used and cited economic indicators.  One cannot discuss the economy of a country or a region without talking about the national or regional GDP. However, many often misunderstand GDP. Specially, some may confuse GDP with the value of the total output (revenue) of an economy.

The reason GDP is misunderstood can be traced to its intended use. The origin of GDP is the need for an economic indicator to measure the overall size of a national or regional economy, so that people can compare which country has the largest or second largest economy in the world. When we think of a business such as a retail shop or a manufacturing plant, we typically use their total sales or revenue as an indicator of the size of their business. For example, Fortune magazine routinely publishes America’s 500 largest companies based on their total revenue. Similarly, when we need a measure of the size of a national or regional economy, it is natural for people to think of this measure as the sum of the revenue (output) of all businesses in a country or region.

While that thinking has its merit, total output (revenue) it is not a good indicator of a true size of the national or regional economy because it allows the possibility of double counting, which could inflate the size of an economy. Consider a business, which buys cotton from famers, and make shirts for the consumer. It has two plants—one turns cotton into fabric, and the other plant has sewing machines to stitch fabrics into shirts. Each shirt sells for $50 dollars. If the business makes only one shirt, the total revenue for the company is $50. 

What if the owner decides to split the two plants into two separate businesses: one produces fabric and the other purchases the fabric and produces shirts?  If the price of the fabric is $20, the total revenue of those two separate companies are $70, while the total sale of the company prior to split is $50. Even though only one shirt is produced in the process, the total output jumps from $50 to $70. One would think the economy represented by two companies is larger, even though only one shirt is produced. The difference is that the value of the fabric is included in both the revenue of the fabric and shirt companies.  This example shows that summing up total output (revenue) of all businesses in a country or region is not a good measure of the true size of the economy due to the fact that the value of the intermediary goods (in this case the fabric) is counted twice or multiple times.

Thus, the concept of GDP was born. GDP is the sum of all companies’ total sales minus the value of the intermediary inputs.  The difference between the total sales and the intermediary input is also defined as the value added of a business. Another commonly used definition of GDP is that it is the sum of consumer expenditures, business investment, government spending, and net exports. This definition is equivalent to the total value added of a country or region, because this definition counts only the value of final products and services; and not the value of intermediary products.

What types of values are added to the intermediary inputs and turned into another product? As the following diagram shows, the main components of value added are the labor income, business tax, and gross surplus.  In addition, gross surplus is made up of the consumption of capital (or depreciation), corporate profits, and other income such as rents, interest, and proprietors’ income. 

In 2014, U.S. GDP (or value added) was 54% of the total output of the country. Within GDP, more than half (53%) of it is labor income, with the rest making up gross surplus and business tax.

De-mystifying GDPDe-mystifying GDP

Estimating Spectators for Economic Impacts is Tricky

The UCI World Championships will soon be held in Richmond, Virginia from September 19th through the 27th. In 2011, when the city was preparing the bid for hosting the cycling championship, Chmura was asked to estimate the event’s potential economic impact. One of the most formidable challenges in that process was to estimate the number of spectators.

We estimated the number of spectators would be 450,000.  As we clarified in a previous blog, 450,000 spectators is not the same as 450,000 visitors.  Despite having thought we explained this difference, we continue to field questions like “how did that number come about?”  The purpose of this blog is to de-mystify the process of estimating this figure and to provide guidance for others who are estimating the economic impact of events in their region.

Four years ago, faced with the challenge of estimating the number of spectators for a major event, the prudent approach was to look at past, similar events.  This mirrors the typical process of any economic projection— utilize data from the past to provide valuable information that helps predict the future.  The number of spectators did not come out of a magic “black box.” Rather, the process was guided by academic research in the tourism industry.

Tourism literature consistently indicates that a region’s population base is one of the key determining factors for the number of visitors/attendants to tourism attractions such as historic sites, festivals, concerts, parks, and museums. Other key factors are the population’s interests, economic conditions such as travel costs, and the existence of a tourism infrastructure such as roads and airports. 

Since we know the population base of Richmond, its surrounding counties, and other major cities within a few hours’ drive, the missing piece is how many of the nearby residents are interested enough to attend the race.  For that information, we examined the number of spectators who attended past UCI World Championship racing events relative to the population base of the host region. 

Right away, we faced challenges. The majority of past races have been held in Europe, which has a long history of public support for cycling. This being said, the public interest in these races in Europe would be higher than can be reasonably expected in the United States, therefore using European races as examples would likely over-estimate the attendance in Richmond.  Over the past decade, the only two non-European championship races were held in 2003 in Hamilton, Canada, and in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. The 2003 Hamilton race reported 230,000 spectators while the 2010 Melbourne race reported 300,000 spectators.

Among those two races, Australia is very far from cycling centers in Europe or North America while Hamilton has more similarity to Richmond. For that reason, we used a survey from the Hamilton race to derive our estimate. 

Hamilton is a mid-sized city (over 700,000 persons in the metro area) not too far from Toronto with a gateway international airport. Richmond is also a mid-sized city (over 1,000,000 population in the metro area) and not too far from several major U.S. cities.  Both Hamilton and Richmond are on the eastern part of the North American continent and are relatively easy to reach.

Hamilton’s survey of over 1,000 race attendants identified the spectators based on the distance of their home to Hamilton. Using that information as a proxy, we calculated the percentage of the regional population base that would travel to see the race based on their distance to Richmond.  The Hamilton survey also contained information on the number of races each visitor attended. Adjusting for the fact that the Richmond race is longer (9 days as opposed to 6 days for Hamilton), we estimated that the total spectators to the Richmond race would be 450,000.

Four years ago, we used the past events to make a future projection, just like any economist would do.  Like any economic projections, there are many unforeseeable events that can affect the actual number of spectators. For example, the global economy and exchange rates can play a role in attendance. With the European economy struggling and the high value of the dollar, European visitors may find it too expensive to travel to America.  Marketing and outreach efforts will also affect the number of spectators. Locally, traffic and parking can affect the number of spectators from the region, and even weather can play a role in attendance.

With the race just about to begin in 22 days, we look forward to measuring the true number of spectators.