Friday, February 01, 2013

How big is the U.S. overseas corporate cash hoard?

According to this analysis by David Cay Johnston, it's $3.4 trillion. That's overseas cash - a big chunk of it in tax havens. We saw this via Bruce Bartlett on the FT blogs, in a U.S.-focused article entitled Can publicity curb corporate tax avoidance?
"The Internal Revenue Service and the OECD have struggled for some years to deal with the problem of income shifting and tax avoidance, to little avail."
You don't say. Bartlett advocates various reforms, including limiting or ending 'deferral' which could bring this $3.4 trillion into the tax net. He cites a study by Allison Christians of McGill University which looks at improved disclosure by multinational corporations and, as Bartlett summarises:
"argues that the expansion of such information reporting to the transfer pricing of all multinationals is the first step towards capturing the revenue now lost to the shifting of business costs to high-tax jurisdictions and revenues to low-tax jurisdictions."
Now those are all initiatives that TJN can support.

He ends on an upbeat note:
"There is growing evidence that corporations are sensitive to the public outcry when they are caught avoiding taxation excessively. Starbucks, for example, recently agreed to pay more taxes in the UK than legally required to quell the controversy over its virtually nonexistent tax bill. The same shaming technique may have broader application to multinationals generally."
Yes. And long may we hold their feet to the fire.


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