SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED BILLS LIMITING CORPORATE INVERSIONS WEAK GIVEN DESIRE FOR FULL INTERNATIONAL TAX OVERHAUL
The Stop Corporate Inversions Act was introduced in the Senate on May 20 by Senator Carl Levin. The bill represents an attempt to tighten U.S. tax rules preventing so-called “inversion” transactions, defined generally as those involving mergers with an offshore counterpart. Under current law, a U.S. company can move its headquarters abroad (even though management and operations remain in the U.S.) and take advantage of lower taxes, as long as at least 20% of its shares are held by the foreign company's shareholders after the merger. Under the bill, the foreign stock ownership for a non-taxable entity would increase to 50% foreignowned stock. Furthermore, the new corporation would continue to be considered a domestic company for U.S. tax purposes if the management and control remains in the U.S. and at least 25% of its employees, sales, or assets are located in the U.S. The Senate bill would apply to inversions for a two year period commencing on May 8, 2014. A companion bill (H.R. 4679) was introduced in the House which would make the changes permanent. However, the bills face opposition on the Hill with lawmakers indicating that the issue could be better solved as part of a broader tax overhaul. House Republicans favored pushing corporate tax rates lower as opposed to tightening inversion requirements, believing that the lower rates would give corporations an incentive to stay in the U.S. and invest, rather than go overseas for a better corporate tax rate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stated that he would consider the issue at a later time during a hearing on overhauling the international tax laws but would not introduce anti-inversion legislation nor would he sign onto the Levin bill. We agree that any changes to the inversion rules should not be made in isolation but as part of an overall rationalization of the U.S. international tax system.