Business interests hit U.S. Treasury curb on overseas tax deals

Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:07pm EDT
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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Business groups urged the Obama administration on Thursday to drop or revise its latest proposals to discourage U.S. companies from rebasing overseas in search of tax savings, part of a long-running fight over so-called tax inversion deals.

The tax avoidance strategy has been attempted in recent years, with mixed results, by some notable U.S. multinationals, including Pfizer Inc and Medtronic Inc..

The latest wave of inversions largely ended after the Treasury Department said on April 4 it was moving to make the deals less lucrative by closing off one of their main attractions, "earnings stripping" transactions.

That is a strategy used by multinationals to shift taxable U.S. profits abroad through tax-deductible interest payments to a foreign parent. Doing an inversion makes this easier.

At a public hearing hosted by the Internal Revenue Service on the new anti-earnings stripping proposals, business representatives said they were too broad and would disrupt ordinary business operations, while discouraging foreign investment in the United States.

"The damage dwarfs the benefits," said Pam Olson, a former Treasury official who works for Big Four audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Days after Treasury announced its new earnings stripping curbs and other steps meant to combat inversions, drugmaker Pfizer ended a $160-billion agreement to acquire Allergan Inc and move to its home country of Ireland.

The Treasury hearing could be the last chance for the public to comment on the department's proposals, soon to be finalized.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while hosting a conversation on community policing and criminal justice at the White House in Washington July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque