Corporate America is repatriating offshore cash at slower pace

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Corporations brought $88.3 billion of overseas profits back to the U.S. in the second quarter, marking nearly $1 trillion that has returned since Congress overhauled the international tax system and prodded companies to repatriate offshore cash.

The sum so far falls short of the $4 trillion President Donald Trump said would return as a result of the 2017 tax law. Investment banks and think tanks have estimated that American corporations held $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion in offshore cash when the law passed.

The flow has slowed from $96 billion in the first quarter and $146.6 billion in the final three months of last year, according to a Commerce Department report released Thursday.

Before the overhaul, companies were incentivized to keep profits overseas because they owed a 35 percent tax when bringing it back and could defer payment by keeping funds offshore. The law set a one-time 15.5 percent tax rate on cash and 8 percent on non-cash or illiquid assets.

The repatriation figures were included in the quarterly report on the current-account deficit, which narrowed $8 billion to $128.2 billion in the April to June period from a revised $136.2 billion. The gap is considered the broadest measure of international trade because it includes income payments and government transfers.

— Katia Dmitrieva and Laura Davison, with assistance from Kristy Scheuble
Bloomberg News

Katia Dmitrieva and Laura Davison
Bloomberg News
Corporate taxes Tax reform Trump tax plan Donald Trump