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The International Consequences of US Tax Reform

The proposed shift to a territorial tax system is likely to have far-reaching effects on US corporations’ behavior. But that change, together with a reduction in the 35% corporate-tax rate, could trigger another round of tax reform among developed countries seeking to improve their attractiveness to internationally mobile capital.

CAMBRIDGE – The United States Congress is likely to enact a major tax reform sometime during the next six months. Although the new rules will apply only to American taxpayers, they will have important consequences for companies and markets around the world.

The most important changes will apply to US corporations rather than to individual taxpayers. Of these reforms, the one with the most obvious and direct international impact will be the change in the taxation of US corporations’ foreign subsidiaries.

The current US rule is unique among all major advanced economies. Consider the example of a subsidiary of a US corporation that earns profits in Ireland. That subsidiary pays the Irish corporate tax at Ireland’s low 12% rate. It is then free to reinvest the after-tax profits in Ireland, in financial securities, or in operating businesses anywhere in the world – except the US.

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