Corporate Inversion Regs: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?
Fallout continues to happen from the Treasury Department's September regulation announcement on corporate inversions. It's now becoming increasingly clear that this regulation can be added to the list of jobs-killing initiatives from the Obama Administration. It joins a Hall of Shame which includes Obamacare, EPA regulations, Dodd-Frank, and many others.
Financial experts at the time were shocked at the size and scope of the regulations. Reuters went so far as to report that $12.3 billion in shareholder wealth was wiped out by the announcement of the regulations alone. How much more will each of us lose from our 401(k) plans and IRAs once this regulation actually goes into effect?
The surprise was warranted, since up until that point the Obama Administration and Treasury had been downplaying what could be done in this area absent Congressional action. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that Treasury "did not have the authority." President Obama remarked that "we can't solve the entire problem administratively." Most definitively, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said "we've done, I think, all we can within the statute."
This reckless and extreme regulation has had serious consequences for U.S. companies and jobs. Since the announcement, a half-dozen international business deals have been scuttled. What does that mean? It means that the international profits of these companies--which have already faced taxation abroad--will continue to encounter double taxation from the IRS should the companies dare to bring that money back to the United States.
That's untenable. Predictably, action has shifted from corporate inversions to outright foreign takeovers of American companies. Even former Bill Clinton economic advisor Laura Tyson has said of this phenomenon, "the proposed anti-inversion measures would also make it more likely that U.S. companies are the target, rather than the acquirer, in cross-border M&A deals."
So great. Rather than letting U.S. companies simply pay tax on their foreign earnings once and only once, the Obama Administration would rather these companies be gobbled up entirely by their foreign competitors. What's going to happen to all the jobs at those companies then? They will quite literally be shipped overseas.
The real solution here is to simply end the double taxation of overseas corporate earnings. Let companies pay taxes over there, and then be done with it. That would make them more likely to bring earnings back to the United States, since they won't face a double taxation situation.
Until we solve our broken tax system, especially with regard to large multinational U.S. companies, the type of clown show we're seeing on corporate inversions is doomed to continue.