The research and experimentation (R&E) tax credit has long been the subject of criticism. Some argue that if the goal is more research and innovation, it’s better to increase direct federal funding of research. Others argue that the credit is not effective, that companies would do the research in any case. Some object the very notion of using tax policy to influence private sector behavior, preferring instead a more ‘‘neutral’‘ tax code. Still others point to what they see are a host of design flaws in the current credit, including that its incremental nature reduces its effectiveness.
I argue here that most of these arguments are mistaken. To promote innovation in a global economy both direct funding and indirect tax incentives are needed. The credit, while it can be improved, has been shown to be effective in stimulating research. Moreover, far from distorting the market, the credit corrects for a market failure where firms are unable to capture all of the benefits of corporate research, leading them to under invest in research. Finally, while reform and expansion are needed, it would be a mistake to shift to a completely flat credit. However, several important changes should be made including doubling the current value of the credit, modifying the Alternative Simplified Credit to become incremental, and expanding the flat credit forcollaborative R&D.