In 2004, US companies paid $16 billion of taxes on $700 billion of foreign earnings–a 2% tax rate. President Obama is now following through on his promise to do away with that.
What Obama wants and what he gets, however, may be quite different. The WSJ estimates that GE’s tax rate was 27% lower as a result of this loophole. So companies will fight like hell.
Bloomberg: President Barack Obama will propose today to outlaw three offshore tax-avoidance techniques U.S. companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. want to use to save $190 billion over the next decade and make it riskier for Americans to stash money in tax-haven banks.
Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will target a strategy that allows U.S.-based multinational companies to effectively hide from the Internal Revenue Service the role their foreign subsidiaries play in shifting profits into low-tax jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, an administration official said.
The proposal, affecting tax rules known as “check the box,” would net $86.5 billion in revenue between 2011-2019 by overhauling regulations created in Democrat Bill Clinton‘s administration and later written into law by a Republican- controlled Congress after Clinton tried to withdraw the rules.
The proposal, combined with a $60.1 billion plan to limit many expense deductions for American companies that take advantage of laws allowing them to defer tax on foreign profits and a $43 billion crackdown on abusive foreign tax credits, would be the biggest tax increase on U.S. corporations since 1986. Obama also would shift the burden of proof to individuals when the IRS alleges assets are being hidden in certain offshore bank accounts, the official said.
“This is bad stuff,” Kenneth Kies, a tax lobbyist at the Washington firm Federal Policy Group, said of Obama’s plans. “This is going to be the biggest fight for the corporate community in the next two years.” Kies represents General Electric Co., Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Microsoft Corp., among others.
The Obama administration will roll out details Monday of what aides are calling a far-reaching crackdown on offshore tax avoidance, targeting many U.S.-based multinational corporations and wealthy individuals.
President Barack Obama will flesh out a proposal included in his February budget blueprint seeking to curb the practice of parking foreign earnings in offshore tax havens indefinitely. By some estimates, $700 billion or more in U.S. corporate earnings have accumulated in overseas accounts in recent years.
The plan to be announced Monday will go further. It aims to change the legal treatment of offshore subsidiaries and structures that companies have used to avoid not only U.S. taxes, but taxes in other developed countries as well.
In addition, the administration will strive to tighten rules that have encouraged thousands of Americans to open offshore bank accounts in an effort to duck U.S. taxes. The plan would increase information reporting and tax withholding as well as penalties, and make it harder for foreign account-holders to win cases in court. The administration promised new enforcement tools to crack down on tax-haven abuse.