Members of Congress being lobbied by large corporations seeking a tax repatriation holiday shouldn't buy the hype that it would create jobs. It won't.
The same pitch was used in 2004 to sell a similar plan that allowed companies to bring about $300 billion in foreign-generated profits into the United States at an effective tax rate of 3.7 percent. Subsequent studies found it didn't increase domestic investment or employment. Most companies used the windfall to buy back their own stock, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Some cut thousands of jobs after repatriating billions of dollars.
Companies don't hire simply because they can afford to. They hire when it's necessary to meet the demand for their goods and services. An infusion of cash from overseas taxed at a single-digit rate, rather than at existing rates up to 35 percent, won't change that. In fact U.S. corporations are already sitting on about $2 trillion in cash or other liquid assets.
A second tax repatriation holiday could provide a small, quick shot of revenue for the U.S. Treasury. But it would also create a reasonable expectation of more holidays to come. And that would give executives reason to park even more money abroad, depriving the treasury of future revenue while they waited to bring it home at a discount.
Corporate tax cuts should be weighed as part of a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code, not rushed into law on the bogus claim that a windfall would create jobs. hN