Since several people have asked, I thought I would do some recycling. My plan (which I know I have stolen from someone) is to require companies to turn over an amount of stock, in the form of non-voting shares, roughly equal to the targeted tax rate. This means if we're shooting for a 28 percent tax rate, then the shares going to the government are equal to 28 percent of the total. If the target is 20 percent, then the government's shares are equal to 20 percent of the total.
From that point forward the government's shares are treated the same as the other shares of the company. If the company pays a $2 per share dividend, the government gets $2 for each of its shares. If the company buys back 10 percent of its shares at $100 a share, it buys back 10 percent of the government's shares at $100 per share. A company taking over the company at a $120 per share price has to also pay the government $120 per share. The basic story is that there is no way to cheat the government out of its tax revenue unless the corporation's management is also cheating its shareholders.
To be as clear as possible, this is not a government takeover of corporate America. As it stands now, the government makes a claim on corporate profits in the form of income taxes. This just changes the form of this claim on profits.
Some folks may want the government to run the whole economy. I don't. I value having firms compete in the market. This tax proposal doesn't change that story. In fact, it has the nice feature that companies will no longer make decisions with an eye toward reducing their tax liability, since the only way they can do that is by screwing shareholders. Instead, companies will make decisions that maximize their expected profits.
I should also point out that this can be done on a voluntary basis. Wherever the tax rate is set, companies can be given the option of issuing stock in the same amount (e.g. a 25 percent tax rate means 25 percent of shares). This would have the advantage from the company's perspective of ending the need to file tax returns. They just pay the government what they are paying shareholders.
From the government's standpoint it reduces the enforcement costs. The companies that go this route will require minimal enforcement resources. Meanwhile, the companies that don't opt to go this route will be telling the I.R.S. that they think they can reduce their tax liability substantially below the official rate. The I.R.S. can then focus its resources on policing these companies. That might not be as good as requiring all companies to go the stock route, but it would be a big step forward in my view.