视点 | 张军:中国企业正在承受死亡税率吗?(中英文)

1月2日,复旦大学经济学院院长张军教授在Project Syndicate官网上发表文章:Are Chinese Enterprises Being Taxed to Death? 报业辛迪加(Project Syndicate)被称为“世界上最具智慧的专栏”,作者来自全球顶级经济学者、诺奖得主、政界领袖,主题包括全球政治、经济、科学与文化塑造者的观点,为全球读者提供来自全球最高端的原创文章、最具深度的评论,为解读“变动中的世界”提供帮助。

12月中,一则关于中国企业“死亡税率”的说法引发了广泛热议。其起因来自于一向低调的著名企业家和慈善家曹德旺先生面对媒体的一席话。他拥有的福耀玻璃最近在美国投资6亿美元开设了工厂(Fuyao Glass America)并准备把其投资逐步转移海外。据说曹先生'出走'美国的原因是地价、能源、劳动力等实体经济的成本差异,他对记者说'中国制造业的税负比美国高35%'。曹先生的这个说法迅速被媒体传播并引发对于中国税负是否过高的又一次辩论-无疑这不是一个新的话题。

长期以来,围绕中国企业税负的争论一直不绝于耳。在中国做生意的税负到底有多高?是否越来越高?此题因为过于复杂,不容易给出直截了当的答案。

笼统地讲,如果以GDP中政府的财政收入占比来衡量总税负,中国的这个数字大约在30%。根据IMF制定的《政府财政统计手册》,2015年中国的总税负为29.1%,比世界平均水平低10个百分点。这里的政府财政收入不包括国有土地使用权出让收入,但包括国有资本经营预算收入和社会保险基金的收入。如果包括政府的土地出让收入,但相应剔除补偿性成本,也就是只考虑土地出让的净收入,总税负也就增加大约1个百分点。

另外一种衡量总体税负的方式是仅仅计算税收收入和社会保障缴款之和占GDP的比重。以这个口径计算,中国2012-2015年的平均税负为23.4%,比OECD国家低大约12个百分点。当然,如果仅看税收收入占GDP的比重,中国现在只有18%左右,而且过去这些年还逐年下降。相比之下,2013年发达国家的税收收入约为GDP的26%,发展中国家约为20%。

不过,以上指标和国际对照未能阻止过去10年来中国的企业家和投资者总是对中国税负太重的抱怨。事实上,世界银行最近发布的报告称,中国企业的平均总税率达到68%,位居世界第12位,这似乎与企业和投资者的感受负担较为吻合,曹先生说中国制造业的税负水平比美国高35%,也许以此为依据。不太清楚世界银行估计的这个平均总税率到底包含了什么以及是如何测算而得。但即使撇开世界银行的估计,依然很有必要简单分析一下为什么企业家感受到的税负高于计算的总税负水平呢?

主要的原因来自两个方面,第一个原因是,与大多数发达经济体相比,中国的税赋主要由生产者承担,作为消费者的家庭承担的比重出奇的小。另一个原因是,企业和投资者感受到的负担其实还包括了纳税之外的负担。这些非税的负担不仅是指为获得资源、土地和融资而支付的实际价格,也包括了政府向企业收取的名目繁多的附加费。

可能由于长期实行计划经济的原因,中国至今还是一个主要依靠对生产者征税的国家。政府向企业征收的主要是所得税和增值税。虽然《中华人民共和国所得税法》规定的企业所得税的税率为25%,但它同时也规定了满足各项税收优惠的条件。例如,对那些政府重点扶持的高新技术企业,所得税率可以减至15%。而对那些符合条件的小型微利企业,通常是按20%的税率征收所得税的。所以,我估计企业所得税率的中位数(median)大概为20%。

中国目前的生产者增值税率一般为17%,还有13%、11%和6%的低档税率,有些条件下最低也可以仅为3%。跟那些实行增值税的国家比,中国的增值税率与它们相差无几。但与日本、韩国、新加坡等相比,平均而言该税率明显高了些。而且因为增值税对生产者在生产环节征收,无论盈利与否都要缴纳,不仅使企业在生产环节增加了税收,而且在经济不景气时感受到的税负更大。这跟美国在最终销售环节征收销售税就非常不同。根据中国国家税务总局税收科学研究所所长李万甫的说法,中国企业事实上承担了90%以上的各种税费,个人承担的各类税费占比不足10%。相比较而言,西方国家个人所得税和社会保险税(费)占比较高,企业直接负担的税费显得并不高。

除了缴纳所得税、增值税之外,中国的不少企业至少还要缴纳约13%的附加费,这包括7%的城市维护建设费、5%的教育附加费和1%的防洪费。需要指出的是,对企业而言,向地方政府缴纳的费是不能转嫁到消费者头上的,而且是从利润中支付。根据TCL董事长李东生披露,这几年中国制造业的平均利润率已经不足2%。城建、教育附加费等制造业附加税占销售收入的比例接近0.5%,约占到平均利润的四分之一。这让本来利润较低的制造业企业压力更大。而企业的流转税与费的区别就在于,生产环节的税多数会被企业转嫁到消费者头上。这是中国制造的产品在海外比在中国大陆要便宜很多的部分原因。

到底中国企业的税负有多重?除了福耀玻璃的曹德旺给出的数据之外,我收集了中国著名的两家企业-格力电器和康力电梯的有关数据,而这些数据是北京的一家报纸的记者整理出来的。

根据格力电器公布的2015年社会责任报告,2015年公司共缴纳各种税金148.16亿元,当年的营收总额为1005.64亿元,净利润为125.32亿元,税金占到了格力营业收入的14.7%,相当于净利润的1.18倍。而康力电梯的年报披露,2015年公司上缴国家的各项税费为3.36亿元,这一数字相当于该公司当年营收总额32.7亿元的10.27%,4.88亿元净利润总额的68.8%。

以上案例显示了过重的企业税负。但不清楚的是,它们是否具有广泛的代表性。中国地方政府对所在地的企业常常还有税收返还、退税、税收的减免等优惠政策,这使得企业税负在不同地区、不同行业和不同企业之间非常不同。所以,在企业层面上,不仅估计税负是一件相当复杂的工作。而且估算平均税负也意义不大。

但即使这样,中国走向更加简单、直接和透明的税收制度还是很有必要。这意味着中国需要把国家的总体税负率与企业感受到的税负调整到一致的方向。在经济下行压力依然增大的情况下,为了稳定经济增长,中国考虑结构性地降税和大幅度减少对企业的收费是对的,而且中国确有降税减费的空间。但除此之外,更重要的是,正如福耀玻璃的曹德旺先生所抱怨的那些税收以外的负担过重那样,很多中国的企业,特别是私人企业因为不公平的机会,比国有企业支付了更高的代价去获得土地和融资等,增加了企业的成本。而且因为在一些上游基础产业(如电力、通讯、能源)仍为国有企业所垄断,其营运效率过低造成下游竞争性制造业承担着过高的成本。这正是福耀玻璃的曹德旺先生所抱怨的真正的成本负担,而久而久之这些都则可能动摇中国制造业的相对优势。


SHANGHAI – A couple of weeks ago, an interview with the Chinese auto-glass tycoon Cao Dewang sparked a heated discussion across China. Cao explained that his recent $600 million investment to establish a US manufacturing branch for his company, Fuyao Glass Industry Group, was driven largely by China’s high taxes, which Cao claims are 35% higher for manufacturers in China than in the US. Has the tax burden on Chinese enterprises really reached economically lethal levels?

Going strictly by the numbers, this does not seem to be the case. Measured as the ratio of the government’s fiscal revenue to GDP, China’s overall tax burden, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Government Finance Statistics Manual, is just over 29%. That is 10% less than the global average.

Another way to measure the overall tax burden is to calculate the ratio of tax revenue and social security contributions to GDP. By that measure, China’s average tax burden from 2012 to 2015 was 23.4%, or 12% lower than the OECD countries. As a percentage of GDP, China’s tax revenues amount to about 18% – compared to around 26% of GDP in developed countries and around 20% in developing countries (in 2013) – and continues to decline.

Yet not everyone agrees that China’s tax burden is relatively low, especially at the firm level. A recent World Bank report indicates that the total tax rate for Chinese enterprises averaged 68%, putting China 12th in the world. This may be where Cao got his 35% manufacturing-tax figure. It is not clear, however, how the World Bank calculated its rate.

What is clear is that Chinese entrepreneurs and investors – who have been complaining for years about the heavy tax burden in China – are far more inclined to agree with the World Bank than more favorable comparisons and indices. One reason for this perception may be that China collects more taxes from producers, and less from consumers, than most developed economies.

According to Li Wanfu, Director of the Tax Research Institute under China’s State Administration of Taxation, more than 90% of all taxes and fees are paid by Chinese enterprises, while less than 10% are paid by individuals. In Western countries, personal-income tax and social-insurance payroll taxes constitute a higher share of total tax revenues.

So what is the actual tax burden on Chinese enterprises? Officially, Chinese producers must pay an enterprise income tax of 25%. But many firms receive tax incentives. For example, high-tech enterprises supported by the government pay an income-tax rate of just 15%, while some small-scale enterprises pay 20%. I would therefore estimate that the median rate of corporate-income tax is around 20%.

Companies must also pay value-added tax of 17%, though there are options for preferential rates of 13%, 11%, 6%, and even 3%. That puts China more or less in the same range as other VAT countries. Nonetheless, China’s average tax rate is significantly higher than that of Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

To find out how these rates translate in the real world, I collected data (compiled by a Beijing news reporter) from two well-known Chinese manufacturers, Gree Electric Appliances and Canny Elevator. According to Gree’s 2015 social responsibility report, the company paid about CN14.8 billion ($2.1 billion) in taxes in 2015. Its total revenue amounted to over CN100.5 billion, and its net profits equaled about CN12.5 billion. The total taxes paid accounted for 14.7% of the company’s total income, or 1.18 times its net profit.

As for Canny Elevator, its annual report showed that it paid 336 million in taxes and duties in 2015. That is about 10.27% of the company’s revenue for the year (which totaled 3.27 billion), and 68.8% of the year’s net profit (which stood at 488 million).

These might be taken as evidence of a heavy burden of tax and duties. But it remains unclear if these figures are in line with what most Chinese firms pay. After all, local governments often offer tax returns, refunds, and breaks, meaning that the tax burden varies greatly across enterprises, industries, and regions. And that does not even account for rampant tax evasion by small firms.

That said, the perceived “tax burden” in China also includes non-tax expenses, including a relatively high proportion of social insurance paid for workers, the actual cost of land, resources, and financing, as well as a variety of government surcharges. And, indeed, Cao cited China’s high land costs (as well as soaring labor costs) as additional factors driving his company’s partial move to the US.

Government surcharges alone amount to at least 13% of Chinese enterprises’ turnover taxes, with some 7% financing urban construction and maintenance, 5% going to education, and 1% earmarked for flood control. Such fees, paid to local governments, must come from profit, and cannot be passed on to consumers.

This has contributed to the erosion of Chinese firms’ profit margins, which, according to TCL Corp Chairman Li Dongsheng, have dropped to less than 2%, on average. Manufacturing surcharges therefore amount to nearly a quarter of profit, putting a further squeeze on low-profit manufacturers.

While it is impossible to estimate the precise size of Chinese firms’ tax burden, they feel under pressure. At a time of slowing economic growth, the last thing China needs is to drive more producers away. To prevent this, China needs to create a more straightforward and transparent tax system, with a transition to more explicit and direct taxation. Taxes, duties, and fees for businesses must be lowered, as should the share of social insurance paid by firms for their employees in China.

At the same time, China’s leaders must commit to curbing the soaring costs of land and financing, thereby paving the way for creating a more equal and competitive market for all firms. They should start by recognizing that as long as upstream infrastructure remains in the hands of often-inefficient state-owned enterprises, some downstream sectors will have to bear higher costs. Over time, such costs could damage the competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers – or drive them to friendlier markets.

文章来源:Project Syndicate