Tax incentive

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A tax incentive is an aspect of a country's tax code designed to incentivize, or encourage a particular economic activity.


Many "tax incentives" simply remove part or all the burden of the tax from whatever market transaction is taking place. This is because almost all taxes impose what economists call an excess burden or a deadweight loss[citation needed]. Deadweight loss is the difference between the amount of economic productivity that would occur absent the tax and that which occurs with the tax imposed

This is illustrated by the following examples. If savings are taxed, people save less than they otherwise would. Tax non-essential goods and people buy less. Tax wages and people work less. And taxing activities like entertainment and travel reduces their consumption as well. Sometimes the goal is to reduce such market activity as in the case of taxing cigarettes. But reducing activity is most often not a goal because greater market activity is considered desirable.

When a tax incentive is spoken of, it usually means removing the tax (or a portion thereof) and thereby lessening the burden.

Pseudo Tax Incentives[edit]

Regardless of the fact that an incentive spurs economic activity. Again, many use the term to refer to any relative change in taxation that changes economic behavior. Such pseudo-incentives include tax holidays, tax deductions, or tax abatement. These "Tax incentives" are targeted at both individuals and corporations.

Individual Incentives[edit]

Individual tax incentives are a prominent form of incentive, and include deductions, exemptions, and credits. Specific examples include the mortgage interest deduction, individual retirement account, and hybrid tax credit.

Corporate Tax Incentives[edit]

Corporate tax incentives can be raised at federal, state, and local government levels. For example, in the United States, the federal tax code provides a wide range of incentives for corporations, totaling $109 billion in 2011 according to a Tax Foundation Study.[1]

Tax Foundation categorizes US federal tax incentives into four main categories, listed below:[2]

  • Tax exclusions for local bonds valued at $12.4 billion.
  • Preferences aimed at advancing social policy, valued at $9 billion.
  • Preferences that directly benefit specific industries, valued at $17.4 billion.
  • Preferences broadly available to most corporate taxpayers, valued at $68.7 billion.

Corporate tax incentives provided by state and local governments are also included in the US tax code, but are many times very often directed at individual companies involved in a corporate site selection project.[3] Site selection consultants[4] negotiate these incentives, which are typically specific to the corporate project the state is recruiting, rather than applicable to a broader industry. Examples include:[5]

  • Corporate income tax credit
  • Property tax abatement
  • Sales tax exemption
  • Payroll tax refund

List of largest US tax incentive deals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Who Benefits from Corporate "Loopholes"?". The Tax Foundation. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "Composition of Corporate Tax Expenditures". The Tax Foundation. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Site Selection Process". Greyhill Advisors. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Site selection consultants". Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Economic Development Incentives". Greyhill Advisors. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Westneat, Danny (3 May 2016). "Boeing's historic tax break from state even bigger than thought". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 28 December 2017. 
  7. ^ Bumsted, Brad (June 7, 2016). "Pennsylvania tax incentive plan played major role in luring Shell cracker plant". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  8. ^ "Location and tax breaks key to Shell's Pennsylvania cracker plant approval". Petrochemical Update. July 8, 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  9. ^ Damon, Anjeanette (2014-09-16). "Inside Nevada's $1.25 billion Tesla tax deal". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved 2016-11-03. 

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