IRS eases tax rules on US firms with foreign units (The Associated Press)

By Jim Abrams

WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service, seeking to make cash more available during the current credit crunch, has issued a rule making it easier for U.S. corporations to bring home money made by their foreign subsidiaries.

The IRS temporarily expanded a 1988 ruling allowing corporations to borrow money held by foreign subsidiaries without having to pay the 35 percent corporate income tax.

"We were recognizing that there were liquidity restraints for companies" during the current credit crisis, Treasury Department spokesman Andrew DeSouza said Tuesday. He said the action would make it easier for foreign subsidiaries to provide loans to their domestic parents.
The current rule allows a company's foreign units to make a tax-free loan to the company as long as it is repaid in 30 days. Over a one-year period, the company can have outstanding loans from its subsidiaries for up to 60 days.

The temporary rule change would allow the U.S. company to keep cash from a single loan for up to 60 days. In total, the company could have borrowed money for up to 180 days in a one-year period.

To avoid being subject to taxation, the money would have to be paid back and could not be used as distributions such as dividends.
Congress, as part of tax legislation passed in 2004, enacted a similar break giving corporations a one-time deduction of 85 percent on dividends received from foreign subsidiaries. That act, aimed at encouraging domestic investment, lowered the effective tax on qualifying dividends from 35 percent to 5.25 percent.

The IRS said in a recent report that 843 corporations took advantage of the deduction. It said that $312 billion in repatriated dividends qualified for the deduction, creating a total deduction of $265 billion.