While Donald Trump defies his pundits’ predictions of inviability as a bona fide presidential candidate, the populist billionaire mogul from New York City not only appears to be on track to win the 2016 Republican nomination, he’s now favored as the only candidate able to crush the front-runner of the Democrat favorite, Hillary Clinton.
What a Trump presidency would look like on the economic policy front has some wincing and others salivating. Wall Street fears a curtailment of a sanctioned a multi-decade laissez-faire trade policy that has divided the nation: the establishment clique with political power and investment capital against the disgruntled majority of politically disenfranchised without much hope for better living standards.
Because of the latter has been hit with a real unemployment rate closer to an 18% rate (and not the officially reported 5%) Trump’s juggernaut has moved quickly from a once-perceived inviability to one of invincibility as he frequently calls out the obvious lies of a economic recovery told to Main Street.
Is Wall Street right when they say Trump is no friend of theirs?
Maybe for some, but Trump is smart enough to know that killing the goose that lays golden eggs is not a redress for those who’ve brought him this far in the nomination process; the real issue is: will the golden eggs be passed around more widely to labor?
Trump wants more manufacturing jobs in America; he’s said so often and the issue represents his singular and most important campaign plank in his bid to win the White House.
The specifics of his made-in-America plan, however, is lacking, but many say will likely include curtailing high taxation rates levied upon overseas profits made by America’s most successful multinational enterprises. How else would manufacturing jobs be created in the U.S. unless corporate executive are given an incentive to create them in America? Capital expenditures are deployed in the country with the most favorable cost structure, which includes the level of earnings taxation.
Right now for every earnings dollar made overseas by the fabulously profitable multinationals, 35% goes to the U.S. Treasury. And in some cases, 35% and an additional 30% tax against earnings reported by “branches” of corporations operating outside of the U.S. are levied Against the full tax owed to the U.S. Treasury, corporations receive tax credits for taxes paid to foreign governments, with the residual deferred until the money comes back to the U.S. It’s no wonder then why overseas corporate cash balances have reached a total of $2.1 trillion, a staggering amount estimated by Bloomberg News.
John Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg in a television interview in Feb. 2015 that his company plans to invest in India, Israel and France if nothing changes regarding U.S. tax law. “I’d prefer to have the vast majority of my employees here,” said Chambers. “And our tax policy is causing me to make decisions that I don’t think is in the interest of our country, or even in our shareholders, long term.”
If Trump pushed to initiate a tax moratorium on overseas taxable earnings of U.S.-based corporations, proponents of a moratorium on overseas earnings say corporations would be freed to increase capital investment in the U.S., and that would provide jobs to American workers as Chambers has suggested. But until then, any potential capital investment in the U.S. stays overseas.
“It just makes no sense to repatriate, pay a substantial tax on it,” Joseph Kennedy, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, told Bloomberg. “Computing and IT companies especially have a lot of flexibility in where they declare their profits.”
The crux of this matter of overseas taxation lies mostly with technology and pharmaceutical companies, whose profits are easily stored outside of U.S. jurisdiction because of the simplicity of holding intellectual property and patent assets overseas.
“It’s very easy to place a patent in another country and accrue the income there,” Rosanne Altshuler, a Rutgers University economist and international taxation expert. “They’re very sensitive to differentials in corporate tax rates.”
The Obama Administration has attempted to tackle this issue but with no success. But, what about a Trump Administration? Can Trump make a deal with Congress and finally come to an agreement to free a goodly portion of the two trillion dollars of stashed cash and bring it back to America?
My Take on Trump’s Chances for a Corporate Tax Overhaul—and Which Stocks May Benefit Most from a Tax Moratorium on Overseas Earnings
As a prominent businessman, who knows more executives than any other candidate ever to seek the White House (Ross Perot?), Trump knows intimately the issue of corporate taxation, the loopholes, and how to motivate executives to bring jobs back to the U.S. If he can answer the following question to the satisfaction of the electorate, “How do we know corporations won’t use the moratorium to continue the stock buyback game and other non-productive schemes to raise stock prices (but add no jobs)?” he has a good chance to get bill passed though Congress.
Of the $2.1 trillion estimated by Bloomberg as the amount stashed overseas awaiting repatriation, CNN Money reckons that 17.6% ($370 billion) of the $2.1 trillion are held by the following top five multinational tech companies:
- Apple (AAPL): total cash of $178 billion – $158.4 billion overseas
- Microsoft (MSFT): total cash of $90.2 billion – $82.1 billion overseas
- Cisco (CSCO): total cash of $53 billion – $49.8 billion overseas
- Oracle (ORCL): total cash of $44.7 billion – $40.2 billion overseas
- Google (GOOG): total cash of $64.4 billion – $38.6 billion overseas
I believe the “deal maker” from New York can finally put some sanity into the corporate tax structure. With a mandate from the people akin to the Ronald Reagan mandate of Nov. 1980 along with an Republican majority in both houses of Congress, Trump may leapfrog any meaningful resistance by making his case directly to the American people, as Reagan so masterfully did on so many issues during his two-term presidency (1981-89). And if Trump is successful, the top five stocks, I list (above), may soar from a overseas tax moratorium and expectations of large capital investments and increased future earnings at these corporations.