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JAMIE DIMON: The $1 trillion that tax reform adds to the deficit is not a material number

Julia La Roche

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon said that tax reform will probably add $1 trillion to the U.S. deficit over the next decade, but the benefits will far outweigh the cost.

“Congress took a historic step in 2017 to reform America’s broken and outdated tax code. Coming together to get that work done shows that we can take on tough issues that have been holding us back,” Dimon wrote in his widely-read annual letter to shareholders.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance’s editor in chief Andy Serwer, Dimon noted that about 20 years ago, the corporate tax rate around the world was about 40%. Since that time, however, many countries have gradually come down to the 20% to 22% range, while the U.S. had remained near 40%.

“The result of that? Brains, capital, and companies have been overseas for 20 years. That’s had an insidious effect on the U.S. economy, capital, R&D,” Dimon said. “And, that’s made it much less attractive to build a plant here than build a plant overseas.”

In his letter, Dimon pointed to a recent study from EY that found that if there were a 20% corporate tax rate between 2004 and 2016, U.S. companies would have acquired $1.2 trillion in cross-border assets instead selling $510 billion in such assets to foreign companies. In other words, more companies would have remained under U.S. ownership.

Jamie Dimon /Photo d’archives/REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

“We needed to have a competitive tax system, and I don’t buy this argument, ‘Well, we didn’t need it now.’ We should have a competitive tax system in good times and bad times. So, we did that.”

Dimon estimated that the whole tax reform bill will add $1 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, which he noted is “not a material number.”

“The benefits outweigh it, and I think it will cause some growth that will maybe make up for that — my own opinion,” Dimon said. “When you run a company, you have table stakes. Do a great job for your client. I think a competitive business tax rate is table stakes to the American economy.”

Dimon added that he’s “fine” if the government has to tax someone like him more.

“But don’t mess up the economy. The economy is what drives jobs, wages, R&D, innovation. It’s why we have the best military on the planet. It’s the economy, stupid. Let’s learn how to nurture that economy. Then, we can afford more, by the way. We can afford to take care of more people, put more in schools, put more in infrastructure, so don’t mess up the economy in the name of something good.”

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Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.