Levin: Repatriation helps few corporations at expense of many

Levin, citing data from the Joint Committee on Taxation, also declared that a repeat of the holiday would lose tens of billions of dollars over a decade and would encourage companies to keep more funds offshore in anticipation of receiving yet another holiday.

The study from the Michigan Democrat, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security panel's permanent subcommittee on investigations, found that the corporations that most heavily relied on the 2004 holiday shed jobs and did not increase their rate of spending on research and development. But, the report adds, those corporations did bump up the amount of stocks they repurchased and gave hefty raises to top executives.

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Still, proponents of having another repatriation holiday argue that it is one of the few ideas out there that has support from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as stressing that it could bring back much of the roughly $1 trillion they say is trapped overseas by America’s high corporate tax rate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has released a study praising repatriation, made a similar point in its pushback on the Levin report.

“This money could pay dividends to consumers who spend and shore up balance sheets or buy back stock, all of which boost economic growth and help to create jobs,” the Chamber’s Bruce Josten said. “As the Chamber has long noted, all these are better options than leaving this capital overseas.”

On Tuesday, Levin himself said he did not know whether there was enough opposition in the Senate to block a repatriation measure introduced by Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that backers are going to try to attach to the president’s jobs bill.

“There’s an army of lobbyists around here favoring repatriation,” Levin said.

Some Democrats have also expressed an openness to linking repatriation with infrastructure initiatives.

But Levin said that, while he favors the idea of an infrastructure bank, he wants not part of combining that with repatriation.

“This source is a job-killer, not a job-creator,” Levin said.

Levin and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D), another repatriation skeptic and the Senate Budget Committee chairman, have also sent a letter to the supercommittee asking them not to implement a new holiday.