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May 06, 2009

Tax Code Changes May Shift Investment to U.S.

Catherine New
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This past Monday, President Obama announced a series of proposed changes to the tax code. The changes include a reform of a long-standing tax deferral for multinational companies on revenue drawn from their foreign operations, a permanent extension of an R&D tax credit and a curb on offshore tax havens.

Professor Andrew Schmidt says the Obama administration hopes that the overall effect of the proposed corporate tax code changes results in a shift of more investments to the United States by effectively minimizing the incentive for foreign growth and improving resources for R&D in the U.S.

“The idea is that eliminating the tax deferral will drive up [companies with foreign operations’] tax rates and potentially curb the incentives to invest overseas. The result could be reduced investment in foreign operations as firms may have less cash to expand plants or factories,” says Schmidt.  “The revenue raised by eliminating the tax deferral would then be used to permanently extend the R&D tax credit, which would encourage firms to make some of these investments in the U.S. instead.”

He adds, “The R&D credit was a temporary provision and was re-upped every few years when it was about to expire. By making it permanent, firms can rely on that subsidy and not wonder if it will expire. This will be a big deal to certain industries, like Big Pharma, which has heavy R&D.”

On the issue of curbing tax offshore tax shelters — a political hot potato — Schmidt says that one effect would be a reduction in the tax gap, which according to the most recent figures from the IRS (fiscal year 2001) is between $312 and $353 billion.

Listen to an interview with Professor Schmidt on WNYC.

Photo credit: kalavinka