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US corporations holding more than $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits overseas

Published time: April 09, 2014 18:28
Edited time: April 10, 2014 11:02
AFP Photo /  Spencer Platt

AFP Photo / Spencer Platt

According to a new report, more than $2 trillion worth of profit generated by some of the biggest United States-based corporations is being held overseas where it’s not subject to US income tax law.

The report — published earlier this month by the Audit Analytics online intelligence service — has even this week managed to capture the attention of the head of the US Senate’s Finance Committee.

In a post published to the Audit Analytics website on April 1, the firm said that their research has led them to determine that American companies are currently holding more profits overseas than ever before, up more than 12 percent in 2013 from the year prior. Since 2008, the researchers added, that statistic has grew up 93 percent.

The companies in question — the top 100 on the Russell 3000 Index of US stocks — held $2.12 trillion in Foreign Indefinitely Reinvested Earnings (IRE) during the last calendar year, Audit Analytics reported, up from only $1.89 trillion a year earlier. All of this income claimed by a total of 547 US companies, the researchers added, is free from the US corporate income tax rules that apply to profits held domestically.

"The new numbers ... certainly highlight what is one of the key challenges for tax reform,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, according to Reuters. “I do think there need to be some reforms in this area."

Sen. Wyden’s latest remarks came just days after his panel assessed more than 50 tax breaks set to expire at the end of 2013 but had failed to be reviewed by the Senate in time. Last month, according to Reuters, Wyden said that offshore deferral and other tax code loopholes resembled "a rotten carcass that the special interests feast on." At this time, however, Reuters reported that policy analyst expect it’s unlikely that Congress with act on any major fiscal issues until after the November mid-term elections later this year.

In the meantime, US corporations are holding record profit numbers far out of the reach of Uncle Sam. Last year, Audit Analytics reported, General Election held more than $110 billion outside of the US, with software company Microsoft and drugmaker Pfizer rounding out the top three with $76.4 billion and $69 billion in Foreign IREs, according to researchers.

"GE operates in more than 170 countries, and most of these overseas earnings have been reinvested in active business operations like manufacturing facilities and loans to non-US customers,” that company responded to Reuters.

And according to Audit Analytics, more companies are now moving their money abroad. Whiile the amount of Foreign IREs has increased dramatically during the last six years, the firm said that the number of companies disclosing these reinvested foreign earnings has increased by 12 percent since 2008.

Profits held in the US are subject to a corporate tax rate of 35 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) told CNN last year that “One out of four corporations doesn't pay a nickel in taxes” due to the numerous loopholes available.