The big tax break of 2004 – which the then-sitting Congress and the Bush administration promised would bring jobs and revamp the economy – did little more than stuff more than $300 billion into the pockets of the rich, says an Oct. 10 report.
The “repatriation tax break” created in 2004 by the “American Jobs Creation Act” allowed companies that had off shored their funds to bring them back into the U.S. while paying only minimal taxes – 5.25 percent instead of the normal top tax of 35 percent. Corporations saved more than $3 billion in taxes.
But, Sen. Levin, who chairs the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on investigations, said via press release, “There is no evidence that the previous repatriation tax giveaway put Americans to work, and substantial evidence that it instead grew executive paychecks, propped up stock prices, and drew more money and jobs offshore.”
According to the Levin report, “The American Jobs Creation Act essentially provided guidelines on four uses of repatriated funds: two – using funds for jobs and research and development – were encouraged, while two others – using funds for executive compensation and stock buybacks – were prohibited.”
However, the law did not have any mechanism requiring the corporations benefitting from the low tax rate to keep track of where and how the repatriated money was spent. Consequently, “the 2004 repatriation tax provision was followed by an increase in dollars spent on stock repurchases and executive compensation.”
This hurt the market overall, creating a competitive disadvantage for American businesses that chose not to offshore their funds in the first place.
Levin’s report examines each of the areas in detail:
Jobs: At best, the ACJA did nothing to alter the number of jobs. There is no evidence that the tax break created jobs. Worse, the top 15 corporations benefitting from the tax break reduced their overall U.S. workforce by nearly 21,000 jobs.
Research and development: After all 840 repatriating corporations were studied, no evidence was found that repatriation increased research and development. Once again, the top 15 receiving corporations actually showed decreases in the pace of these types of expenditures.
Stocks purchases: According to the report, “Despite a prohibition on using repatriated funds for stock repurchases, the top 15 repatriating corporations accelerated their spending on stock buybacks after repatriation, increasing them 16 percent from 2004 to 2005, and 38 percent from 2005 to 2006, while a broad-based study of all 840 repatriating corporations estimated that each extra dollar of repatriated cash was associated with an increase of between 60 and 92 cents in payouts to shareholders.”
Executive pay: Pay for the top five executives at the top 15 corporations jumped a whopping 27 percent from 2004 through 2005 – and then 30 percent from 2005 to 2006.
Benefits for American business overall was zero: Findings indicate, “Repatriation primarily benefited a narrow slice of the American economy, returning about $140 billion in repatriated dollars to multinational corporations in the pharmaceutical and technology industries, while providing no benefit to domestic firms that chose not to engage in offshore operations or investments.”
Further, most of the money was simply repatriated from overseas tax havens – and then returned to them. “The corporations that repatriated substantial sums have built up their offshore funds at a greater rate than before” the 2004 tax break.
The report concludes that “repatriation is a failed tax policy,” noting that, while no appreciable increase in jobs was seen, the cost to the U.S. treasury was $3.3 billion over ten years. Further, lack of money is not holding U.S corporations back from investing and creating job. As of 2011, America’s big corporations have over $2 trillion in cash on hand domestically, more than ever before.