The Treasury Department on Monday took aim at U.S. companies moving their headquarters overseas to lower their tax bills, issuing aggressive new rules intended to make such moves less profitable and throwing a potential wrench into Pfizer’s recent $160 billion proposed deal to combine with Allergen and become an Irish company.
This is the third round of rules the Obama administration has issued over the last two years to stop the flow so-called inversions, in which U.S. companies are technically bought by foreign firms to reduce U.S. taxes.
The department’s latest batch of rules would make more difficult a practice known as “earnings stripping” that enables companies to lower their taxable U.S. profits. Using this strategy, the U.S. subsidiary of the inverted company can take on a loan from its foreign parent company. The interest payments on that debt can then be deducted from the U.S. company’s taxable income and is taxable at a low rate in the country in which the inverted firm is based.
Earnings stripping is typically one of the most attractive parts of an inversion and the Treasury Department wants to make the process more onerous.