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The lifeblood of Delaware is the multitude of businesses incorporated in the state, some of which do not even exist within Delaware’s borders beyond a P.O. Box in Wilmington, and yet they pay taxes that make up a substantial portion of the state’s revenue. For years Delaware has been the premier place for a company to incorporate, and over half of all U.S. corporations are incorporated in the first state, in large part thanks to the state’s first rate court system that deals with businesses fairly and expediently. This means that it is cheaper to go to court in Delaware, and that means less costs that businesses have to absorb into their bottom lines or pass along to their customers. Although Delaware’s business court system remains the best in the country, other states are catching up.

State lawmakers have done their best to offset the savings offered by Delaware’s efficient court by creating ludicrous financial burdens on businesses and their employees that keep them away from the state. Because of these costs, many companies decide it is not worth it to open up actual offices in Delaware and subject themselves to the high taxes imposed by Delaware. Furthermore, many employers stay out of Delaware because their employees do not want to live there, because of failing schools and high crime, especially in Wilmington. Hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth has fled New Castle County in the past 15 years, undoing much of past efforts to attract business into the state. The state should be leveraging its accommodating courts to attract businesses to establish an actual presence in the state, rather than scaring them off with high taxes and unattractive communities.

Other states have also begun to attempt to reform their courts to make them more business friendly; both Nevada and North Dakota have improved the regulatory burdens they impose on states, and North Dakota especially has worked to reduce the tort costs inflicted upon its companies. In all likelihood the measures taken by theses states will poach some corporations from Delaware and will cut into growth in the number of new incorporations in the first state. It is a testament to the success and foresight of Delaware’s model that other states are attempting to emulate it and in a sense beat Delaware at its own game. For now Delaware’s courts still remain the most accommodating in the country, but other states are working to provide their own alternatives. Given the state officials complacency in making Delaware competitive, the possibility of other states surpassing Delaware grows by the minute.

States like North Dakota offer a vastly more hospitable tax climate compared to Delaware. North Dakota is making the smart decisions Delaware is not, attracting companies into the state with a potent combination of friendly courts and a sensible tax policy, that work in tandem to create a great offering. Meanwhile Delaware’s tax burdens offset the benefits its courts offer, wiping out any net-gain the courts might provide to a company looking for a place to start or expand. Overall it often makes more sense for a company to do business in North Dakota than Delaware, when one combines the combined effects of the states’ regulatory and tax policies. North Dakota is working to attract the P.O. Boxes and then turn them into offices, while Delaware only expands the financial burdens of doing business in the state and watches those P.O. Boxes disappear.

Jack Massih

CRI Intern

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