​The Irish Jig Is Up

Ivan Illán  |

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is making President Macron’s position clear on tax reform. This past week, French officials having been messaging their intention to lower France’s top corporate tax rate to 25% from the current 33.3%. While certain EU countries are proposing lowering their tax rates, the Irish are being singled out for their ultra-accommodating 12.5% rate. Tech and biotech companies the world over have smartly setup shop there, sheltering billions of Dollars and Euros from higher taxation.

The ultra-low tax rate jig is up. The Eurozone is banding together more than ever before – looking to harmonize tax rates across the EU member countries. France and Germany are leading the charge. The goal is a great one, and a foundational one at that, if the EU ever has any hope of staying together. A standardized Eurozone fiscal policy (which any tax regime is a core component) would be a required pillar to achieving a stable European trade and customs union and (€) Euro monetary unit.

Franco-German unity is amusing (and not only due to their sorted history). Comparing tax revenues as a percentage of GDP between Germany and France reveals major differences (see chart below). Ironically, the US and Germany metrics are far more alike, huddled around 11.5% tax revenue/GDP, as France and Ireland are awash with tax revenues but for completely different reasons. Ireland’s maintains a smaller yet growing GDP compared to France’s shrinking GDP and high tax rates. Regardless, the wheels of EU corporate tax rate harmonization are in motion.

The EU already has been embroiled in a lawsuit against Ireland and Apple (AAPL), where its seeking nearly $15 billion in back taxes owed. The US recently announced getting into the fray. The political scene is set for EU member nations to acquiesce to the demands of more fiscally fit nations among them. The EU should be careful what it wishes for… imposing higher tax rates in certain jurisdictions (e.g., Ireland) will force corporations to domicile elsewhere. Considering the current geo-political environment, a corporation relocation in many cases will result in a move back to their native homeland. Apple is the best example of this. US Treasury and budgetary officials salivate over the prospect of repatriating most, if not all, of Apple’s $250 billion held overseas.

Now is the time for the US Congress to take advantage of this historic opportunity. US Legislatures must pave the way for the accumulated foreign cash holdings of US corporations to easily and painlessly come home. Doing so could be a triumph for US stockholders, as much of these funds should be used to buy back shares or retire soon-to-be-higher debt rates. The EU will most likely make the error of frightening away foreign assets, as they level their collective playing field. Countries like the US and the UK should take action boldly and capitalize now.

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Symbol Name Price Change % Volume
AAPL Apple Inc. 157.09 1.23 0.79 19,290,316 Trade



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