U.S. companies have repatriated $1 trillion since tax overhaul

Dollar bills
The 2017 tax overhaul prodded companies to bring their offshore profits back to the United States.
(John Lund / Getty Images)

Corporations have brought back more than $1 trillion of overseas profits to the U.S. since Congress overhauled the international tax system and prodded companies to repatriate offshore funds, a Thursday report showed.

Even so, the total remains well short of the $4 trillion that President Trump said would return as a result of the 2017 tax law. The flow rose to $95.3 billion in the third quarter from a downwardly revised $70.4 billion in the second quarter, according to Commerce Department data, reaching a total of $1.04 trillion since the end of 2017.

Investment banks and think tanks have estimated that U.S. corporations held $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion in offshore cash at the time the law was enacted. Before the overhaul, companies had an incentive to keep profits overseas because they owed a 35% tax when bringing it back and could defer payment by keeping funds offshore. The law set a one-time 15.5% tax rate on cash and 8% on non-cash or illiquid assets.

The repatriation figures were included in the quarterly report on the current-account deficit, which narrowed by $1.1 billion to $124.1 billion in the July-through-September quarter. The gap is considered the broadest measure of international trade because it includes income payments and government transfers.