March 20, 2021 / VOLUME NO. 149
Prepare for Higher Taxes Ahead

When Curtis Carpenter, an investment banker and senior managing director with Hovde Group, met with a bank’s board of directors recently to explore the possibility of selling, they had a curious question. What’s the potential tax impact for shareholders of a sale in 2021, versus further down the road? 

Higher taxes in the future appear to be increasingly inevitable. As the nation moves beyond the implications of Congress’ $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, expect more discussions around how to pay for it. Bloomberg News reported this week that President Joe Biden’s administration is eyeing the first major tax increase in decades. Biden campaigned, in part, on a platform that included raising the top personal income tax rate and capital gains taxes for the wealthy. 

High-income earners often sit on the boards of banks and this may impact their decisions about when to sell. Plus, Biden proposed raising the corporate tax rate from the current level of 21% to 28%. The corporate tax rate was 35% prior to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. 

The country is at a historical moment. Democrats control the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Tax rates are probably the lowest level that any of us will see in our lifetimes. The federal deficit has ballooned in the last two decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. This can’t hold. 
But this may not play out the way you think it will. In-fighting and political wrangling must ensue before a comprehensive tax package passes Congress. And Biden’s campaign proposal to raise corporate taxes still doesn’t bring them to the level they were before 2017. 

If corporate tax rates increase to 28%, the effective tax rate for banks would rise 600 basis points, given state and local tax deductions, according to estimates from the investment bank Stephens. That would trim earnings per share by 8% and return on tangible common equity from 12% to 11% in fiscal year 2022 for a sample of 90 banks with $500 million to $10 billion in assets.

More notably, several states are considering their own tax proposals. Pennsylvania’s governor and Hawaii’s legislators want higher personal income tax rates. Minnesota and Maine are eyeing hikes to the corporate tax rate and more taxes on high-income earners. New York’s legislators are seeking some $7 billion in new taxes on high-income earners and on corporations. 

Quite literally, it will pay to consider higher taxes ahead. 

• Naomi Snyder, editor of Bank Director
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