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Saturday, 14th June 2014
Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues
Source: Congressional Research Service via Federation of American Scientists
News reports in the late 1990s and early 2000s drew attention to a phenomenon sometimes called corporate “inversions” or “expatriations”: instances where U.S. firms reorganize their structure so that the “parent” element of the group is a foreign corporation rather than a corporation chartered in the United States in order to reduce the effect of the U.S. corporate income tax....
These types of inversions largely ended with the enactment of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (JOBS Act, P.L. 108-357), which denied the tax benefits of an inversion if the original U.S. stockholders owned 80% or more of the new firm. The Act effectively ended shifts to tax havens where no real business activity took place.
However, two avenues for inverting remained. The Act allowed a firm to invert if it has substantial business operations in the country where the new parent was to be located; the regulations at one point set a 10% level of these business operations. Several inversions using the business activity test resulted in Treasury regulations in 2012 that increased the activity requirement to 25%, effectively closing off this method. Firms could also invert by merging with a foreign company if the original U.S. stockholders owned less than 80% of the new firm.
Two features made a country an attractive destination: a low corporate tax rate and a territorial tax system that did not tax foreign source income. Recently, the UK joined countries such as Ireland, Switzerland, and Canada as targets for inverting when it adopted a territorial tax. At the same time the UK also lowered its rate (from 25% to 20% by 2015).
Recently, several high profile companies have indicated an interest in merging or plans to merge with a non-U.S. headquartered company, including Pfizer and Chiquita. Pfizer, for example, was interested in merging with a smaller British firm, AstraZeneca, and moving headquarters to the UK. For Pfizer, which has accumulated substantial profits in subsidiaries in low tax foreign countries that would be taxed if paid to the U.S. parent, the territorial tax system is likely the most important tax benefit from such a merger. This “second wave” of inversions again raises concerns about an erosion of the U.S. tax base.
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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.
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