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Old 04-04-2014, 12:46 PM  
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Idle cash piles up

Idle cash piles up: David Cay Johnston
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/...86F0GK20120716
Mon, Jul 16 2012
By David Cay Johnston

(Reuters) - IRS data suggests that, globally, U.S. nonfinancial companies hold at least three times more cash and other liquid assets than the Federal Reserve reports, idle money that could be creating jobs, funding dividends or even paying a stiff federal penalty tax for hoarding corporate cash.

The Fed's latest Flow of Funds report showed that U.S. nonfinancial companies held $1.7 trillion in liquid assets at the end of March. But newly released IRS figures show that in 2009 these companies held $4.8 trillion in liquid assets, which equals $5.1 trillion in today's dollars, triple the Fed figure.
Why the huge gap?

The Fed gets its data from the IRS, but only measures the flow of funds in the domestic economy. The IRS reports the worldwide holdings of U.S. companies, which I think is the more revealing measure.

From the companies' point of view, it makes perfect sense these days to hoard cash.

First, Congress lets overseas profits accumulate untaxed, so long as offshore subsidiaries own the cash. Second, companies have a hard time putting cash to work because fewer jobs and lower wages mean less demand for products and services. Third, a thick pile of cash gives risk-averse CEOs a nice cushion if the economy worsens.

Given the enduring hard times, you might think that corporations have used up their cash since 2009. But real pretax corporate profits have soared, from less than $1.5 trillion in 2009 to $1.9 trillion in 2010 and almost $2 trillion in 2011, data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis shows.

That is nearly $1 trillion of increased profits over two years, while actual taxes paid rose less than a tenth as much, BEA reports show. Dividends, wages and capital expenditures all grew less than profits, while undistributed profits rose. The result: more cash.

Bigger profits are good news, but it would have been better news had those increased profits been put to work, not laid off in accounts paying modest interest. Hoarding corporate cash in bank accounts, Treasuries and tax-exempt bonds poses a serious threat to the economy, as Congress recognized when it enacted the corporate income tax in 1909.

Let's get some perspective on these gigantic figures, all measured in today's dollars.

The 2009 cash reported to the IRS equaled America's entire economic output that year from New Year's Day through May Day.

This cash pool came to $16,700 for every man, woman and child in the United States, a 53 percent real increase from 2004, my calculations from IRS data show.

Looked at yet another way, these companies had 11.3 percent of their assets in cash, or enough to pay their 2009 corporate income tax bills, which amounted to $148 billion, more than 34 times over.

In short, U.S. companies hold vastly more cash than is needed to finance their operations.

For investors, companies holding 11.3 percent of their assets in cash lowers returns. Did you buy shares of American Widget so executives could park profits in savings accounts?

For workers, idle cash means idle hands and minds. With one in five Americans unemployed or underemployed, and real median wages in 2010 back down to the level of 1999, this is no time for capital to go on an extended holiday.
For taxpayers, untaxed profits subtly reduce corporate tax burdens and increase the tax burden on individuals. Because taxes owed on offshore profits are not adjusted for inflation, they depreciate at the rate of inflation. That means a double whammy for taxpayers as government pays interest on money it borrows while its accounts receivable from multinational corporations lose value.

Since the income tax system began, Congress has authorized a tax on excessive accumulated earnings to limit damage to the Treasury -- and the economy -- when companies hold far more cash than their operations require. Without the accumulated earnings tax, corporations can become bloated tax shelters instead of engines of growth.

A business holding more cash than its operations reasonably require can be hit with a 15 percent levy under Section 531 of the Internal Revenue Code, on top of the 35 percent corporate income tax. The Tax Court even devised a mechanical test in 1965 for how much is too much.

Historically the IRS has levied only privately owned firms or publicly traded companies with few shareholders. But Internal Revenue Code Section 531 applies to all corporations. President Ronald Reagan signed Section 532 (c), which made that explicit, though with an exception for untaxed offshore profits.

After reviewing decades of literature on these code sections, I cannot fathom any rational basis for giving multinational companies an exception to the cash hoarding rules, which discriminates against purely domestic firms.

Some of the multinational corporations say they will bring home what could be more than a trillion dollars if Congress will give them an 85 percent tax discount. The companies frame this as creating jobs. But as I showed in an earlier column, unless there are strict rules, the money can be used to buy back company stock while destroying jobs.

Want to motivate companies to put some of those trillions of dollars of idle cash to work creating jobs, paying dividends or sharing the burden of taxes? Call 1-202-224-3121 and tell your senator or representative you want Section 531 vigorously enforced - now - and the offshore loophole closed immediately.
(David Cay Johnston is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own.)
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:48 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
Progressives are funny. Talk about simplistic thinking.

This "idle" cash is not idle by any means. It just isn't being taxed like they want it. The one thing they get right is that a tax "holiday" to repatriate the money is not going to solve ANYTHING. All that does is encourage more of the same.

This is a perfect example of US companies choosing to jump through all sorts of hoops and paying foreign taxes and interest on domestic loans rather than pay exorbitant domestic taxes. When you see companies willing to go to these lengths, the correct response is not some useless attempt to "force" the money home. The correct response is to look at a "sweet spot" in our tax levels that make this kind of crap not worthwhile.
This
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:35 AM   #32
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Gee, why is all this money on the sidelines? Could it be because of the regulatory environment...?
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Originally Posted by cosmo20002 View Post
No.
Yes. US has made it punitive to bring profits home, and made it harder for companies to expand production at home due to often onerous regulation.
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:36 AM   #33
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Those idle funds over seas were earned through operations overseas and taxes are paid in those countries. Its not like there is some huge hidden effort to smuggle money untaxed out of the US. Taxes are paid, just not to the US. And for good reason.
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:38 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by petegz28 View Post
These excuses are old hat anymore. Why are they having to bring it BACK in the first place? It's a vicious cycle, I agree. One sends money oversees to avoid taxes and the government threatens to increase taxes on such, etc, etc.

But I still contend the problem with our economy and corporate America for that matter is the selling out of America among other things such as regulation and taxes are finally biting us in the ass.

The sad part, HCF, is people still defend one side and blame the other when it's both that are the problem.

It would be a lot more palatable for people to go for lower corporate tax rates and etc, if these companies were hiring more and paying more. But when they hoard and hide and stiff the American worker they aren't winning over any fans and if anything are giving ammo to those that want to increase regulation and taxes.
Ireland is a socialist haven compared to us, yet many companies are based there to avoid the regressive US corporate taxes. Apple is one of the worst cash horders, yet they are beloved by progressives.
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:40 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by lawrenceRaider View Post
Ireland is a socialist haven compared to us, yet many companies are based there to avoid the regressive US corporate taxes. Apple is one of the worst cash horders, yet they are beloved by progressives.
Ironic, isn't it? Ireland I do believe is one of the top countries for "economic freedom"
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:27 AM   #36
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Ireland is a socialist haven compared to us, yet many companies are based there to avoid the regressive US corporate taxes. Apple is one of the worst cash horders, yet they are beloved by progressives.
Apple is an amazing success story and has re written the business and customer service model. People like Apple for all the right reasons. Products, Service, Employees who are empowered and care, support at all levels.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:30 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
Progressives are funny. Talk about simplistic thinking.

This "idle" cash is not idle by any means. It just isn't being taxed like they want it. The one thing they get right is that a tax "holiday" to repatriate the money is not going to solve ANYTHING. All that does is encourage more of the same.

This is a perfect example of US companies choosing to jump through all sorts of hoops and paying foreign taxes and interest on domestic loans rather than pay exorbitant domestic taxes. When you see companies willing to go to these lengths, the correct response is not some useless attempt to "force" the money home. The correct response is to look at a "sweet spot" in our tax levels that make this kind of crap not worthwhile.
That cash is absolutely idle. Cash and short term equivalents don't make any money for the business (helloooo low interest rates) and they aren't being invested into the company to produce growth. Apparently you've been asleep for the last 5 years and have missed all the commentary on the record buildup of cash and cash equivalents on balance sheets of companies.

Also, interest on loans is a deductible expense. Companies use debt as a tax shield all the time.

And finally, companies aren't jumping through all sort of hoops to make this stuff happen. They set up the subsidiaries in other jurisdictions and everything else is a matter of journal entries.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:32 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by HonestChieffan View Post
Those idle funds over seas were earned through operations overseas and taxes are paid in those countries. Its not like there is some huge hidden effort to smuggle money untaxed out of the US. Taxes are paid, just not to the US. And for good reason.
You have no idea of what you're talking about.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:55 PM   #39
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You have no idea of what you're talking about.
Did you get the office cleaned? Early today. Hope you got all the rubbish bins dumped.
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:32 AM   #40
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You have no idea of what you're talking about.
I didn't even waste my time with it. It just gets pointless after a while. It's not secret I agree with HCF on most issues but when it comes to corporate America and economics I am afraid there are people who just spout off the Limbaugh lines on protecting the rich.

What they fail to see is it is not an attack on the rich in they way they try to portray it. That and the rich tend to be the root cause of a lot of the issues the rich bitch about.
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Old 04-06-2014, 08:36 AM   #41
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I think there are a lot of old people that have money hidden under their mattresses, that money should be taxed.

Everyone go to an old persons home whether its you neighbor, cousin or grandpa and check it for money.
Threaten them to tell you where they hoard their cash.

We need to tax it so uncle sam has money.

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Old 04-06-2014, 08:54 AM   #42
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There are countless shipwrecks on the high seas that have a ton of loot on them.
These should be found and confiscated, the goverment needs to tax it.

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Old 04-06-2014, 08:54 AM   #43
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Apple
Total Cash: $137.1 billion
Industry: Technology
Percent Overseas: 69%

One would wonder what should Apple do differently? They have a great stock, products, company and customer loyalty. Their US Growth will come from innovation and new products. We won't see them building much stuff here. Their real new growth opportunities are overseas. So they keep the overseas cash overseas to fund overseas business opportunities. If the need cash here 31% of $137 billion will get them started.

Why bring money back here? They have plenty here. And they get screwed by the US if they bring it back. And they have the same opportunity to invest anywhere they want to as long as where it is invested returns what they see as a needed return.
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:23 AM   #44
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General Motors
Total Cash: $27.4 billion
Industry: Automotive
Percent Overseas: N/A

And how much did the taxpayer lose in the bailout? And How much did the bond holders take a bath on?
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:52 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HonestChieffan View Post
Apple
Total Cash: $137.1 billion
Industry: Technology
Percent Overseas: 69%

One would wonder what should Apple do differently? They have a great stock, products, company and customer loyalty. Their US Growth will come from innovation and new products. We won't see them building much stuff here. Their real new growth opportunities are overseas. So they keep the overseas cash overseas to fund overseas business opportunities. If the need cash here 31% of $137 billion will get them started.

Why bring money back here? They have plenty here. And they get screwed by the US if they bring it back. And they have the same opportunity to invest anywhere they want to as long as where it is invested returns what they see as a needed return.

Apple has also taken severe criticism from their shareholders for sitting on so much cash as well. regardless of it being overseas.
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