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Treasury Department thinks multinationals should have to pay taxes

By Ezra Klein,

I’m glad to see the Treasury Department coming out strongly against a tax holiday for the income multinational corporations are holding overseas:

In 2004, when the U.S. enacted a repatriation tax holiday, the goal was to encourage U.S. multinationals to pay bigger cash dividends from their overseas subsidiaries and use the cash to make investments in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that it increased U.S. investment or jobs, and it cost taxpayers billions.
Although advocates argue that a repatriation holiday could be costless or even raise tax revenue, the official Congressional scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, estimated before enactment that the 2004 repatriation holiday would actually cost billions of dollars. In 2009, when this idea was being pushed once again, Senator Baucus indicated during Floor debates that the cost of a new holiday had increased to $30 billion, presumably because a second holiday would encourage further erosion of the U.S. tax base through shifting of profits overseas. Moreover, according to outside estimates, just five firms got over one-quarter of the tax benefits of the repatriation holiday, and just 15 firms got more than 50 percent of the benefits. To pay for giving this large tax cut once again to a small group of U.S. companies without increasing the deficit, we would have to raise taxes on other U.S. businesses.
In assessing the 2004 tax holiday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports that most of the largest beneficiaries of the holiday actually cut jobs in 2005-06 — despite overall economy-wide job growth in those years — and many used the repatriated funds simply to repurchase stock or pay dividends. Today, when U.S. corporations have ready access to cash they have accumulated and are holding here in the United States, it is even harder to make the case that a repatriation holiday will unlock new investment and job creation.

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