The incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants New Hampshire to go from having the second-lowest corporate tax rate in New England to the second-highest (based on Tax Foundation rankings). The incoming House speaker initially expressed opposition to the idea, only to backtrack in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader. 

The message is clear: Expect the House to pass a large business tax increase in 2019. 

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, told New Hampshire Business Review that she plans to introduce two business tax bills early next year. One would repeal the rate reductions, started in 2016, which cut the Business Profits Tax from 8.5 percent to 7.9 percent this year, and the Business Enterprise Tax from 0.75 percent to 0.675 percent. The BPT is scheduled to fall to 7.5 percent and the BET to .05 percent in the tax year ending in 2021. 

New Hampshire’s overall business climate is strong, but the state ranks 45th on the Tax Foundation’s corporate tax ranking. Even after the cuts, our business tax rates remain high. Making them once again higher than those in all of our neighboring states would hurt New Hampshire’s economic competitiveness and discourage economic growth. 

It also would hurt small business formation. A Federal Reserve study earlier this year found a strong negative relationship between high corporate tax rates and entrepreneurship. 

More than half of New Hampshire employment comes from small businesses, which comprise 99 percent of all businesses in the state, according to Small Business Administration data. Raising the corporate rate would not only make New Hampshire less competitive among Northeastern states, but it would suppress new business startups.

Speaker Steve Shurtleff seemed to have a good sense of the negative effects of higher corporate tax rates when he told NHBR, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t maintain the status quo…. We’ve got a good robust economy in New Hampshire. We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

That’s exactly the right attitude, and New Hampshire businesses would be reassured had the incoming speaker stuck to that position. Unfortunately, he later told Kevin Landrigan that he must have misspoken and that Almy’s plans were “on the right track.”  

Almy’s other bill would let the Legislative Fiscal Committee increase the BPT if revenue declines to the point that the rainy day fund is put in jeopardy.

The only track Almy’s bills are on is the one to slower economic growth. Almy thinks the Legislature would have a veto-proof majority to raise business taxes. If that’s true, the state economy is at risk of taking a sudden and entirely preventable downturn next year. 

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