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Kass: Addressing the Fiscal Cliff

The ever-growing pile of offshore cash has introduced new potential risks to the balance sheets of these corporations at home. Companies are avoiding paying the taxes on the repatriation of their overseas profits but still have to fulfill the obligations to shareholders in the form of dividends, share repurchases, debt repayments and pension contributions. Given the easy borrowing terms of low interest rates here in the U.S., companies are taking on more debt instead of paying Uncle Sam in taxes.

While corporations continue to hoard cash offshore, they are simultaneously improving margins by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. Corporate profits improve but tax revenue is hardly impacted by the process. This has contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Sen. Sanders has introduced new legislation with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) with the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) in an effort to stop American banks and corporations from sheltering profits in places such as Ugland House and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The act will also cease rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in the bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

The legislation will certainly raise some arguments on Capitol Hill. The situation remains that the U.S. is the only major country that has substantial taxes on the repatriation of profits earned overseas. The GOP argues that the U.S. needs to move toward a territorial system for international taxation. Under this system, foreign-source income would be taxed only in the country where it was earned and not be taxed at all in the U.S. This approach would reduce the tax burden on U.S. companies and eliminate the disincentive for corporations to repatriate their foreign profits, according to the Brookings Institute 2012 article, "A Sensible Plan to Bring U.S. Corporate Profits Home."

The major point of contention with this system is that certain profits would not be taxed at all in the U.S.

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