Corporation tax, imposts levied by federal, state, or local governments against corporations, their income, or their peculiar attributes, such as charters, capitalization, dividends, and franchises. In the United States such taxes were brought about by the difficulty of taxing corporate bonds and stocks and by the growth of corporations beyond state bounds, with consequent difficulty of assessment and taxation.
Such special state corporation taxes now include fees and licenses for incorporation or for an increase in capitalization or for filing the corporation's charter in another state; taxes on gross earnings; taxes on tonnage and financial instruments or transactions; franchise taxes; capital stock taxes; and net income taxes. In 1909 the federal government imposed an excise tax on net incomes of U.S. corporations.
That tax was superseded by a corporation income tax after the Sixteenth Amendment (1913). In Great Britain in 1920 a tax was levied on corporations, including foreign companies of limited liability doing business in the United Kingdom, but exempting the profits of corporations receiving income from other corporations already taxed. In both the United States and Great Britain, excess profits tax has generally been imposed only during wartime.
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