High corporate taxes are keeping a trillion dollars-worth of profits out of the US

Of course, this is just the opinion of the Wall Street Journal, but consider what they say:

One trillion dollars is roughly the amount of earnings that American companies have in their foreign operations—and that they could repatriate to the United States. That money, in turn, could be invested in U.S. jobs, capital assets, research and development, and more.

But for U.S companies such repatriation of earnings carries a significant penalty: a federal tax of up to 35%. This means that U.S. companies can, without significant consequence, use their foreign earnings to invest in any country in the world—except here.

The U.S. government’s treatment of repatriated foreign earnings stands in marked contrast to the tax practices of almost every major developed economy, including Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Russia, Australia and Canada, to name a few. Companies headquartered in any of these countries can repatriate foreign earnings to their home countries at a tax rate of 0%-2%. That’s because those countries realize that choking off foreign capital from their economies is decidedly against their national interests.

Many commentators have pointed to the large cash balances sitting on U.S. corporate books as evidence that the economy is still stalled because companies aren’t spending. That analysis misses the point. Large cash balances remain on U.S. corporate books because U.S. companies can’t spend their foreign-held cash in the U.S. without incurring a prohibitive tax liability.

Especially with corporate bond rates falling below 4%, it’s hard to imagine any responsible corporation repatriating foreign earnings at a combined federal and state tax rate approaching 40%.

By permitting companies to repatriate foreign earnings at a low tax rate—say, 5%—Congress and the president could create a privately funded stimulus of up to a trillion dollars. They could also raise up to $50 billion in federal tax revenue. That’s money the economy would not otherwise receive.

The amount of corporate cash that would come flooding into the country could be larger than the entire federal stimulus package, and it could be used for creating jobs, investing in research, building plants, purchasing equipment, and other uses. It could also provide needed stability for the equity markets because companies would expand their activity in mergers and acquisitions, and would pay dividends or buy back stock. And when markets go up, confidence increases and businesses and consumers begin to spend.

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