Repatriation Taxes and the Value of Cash Holdings
Posted: 17 Sep 2014 Last revised: 27 Jun 2019
Date Written: November 22, 2014
U.S.-domiciled multinational firms are taxed on a worldwide basis under a credit and deferral system. Consequently, multinationals earning profit from low-tax foreign countries have incentives to delay the repatriation of foreign earnings, resulting in high levels of offshore cash holdings. I hypothesize and find that investors’ valuation of multinationals’ total cash holdings is negatively associated with firm-specific tax costs of repatriation. Using a hand-collected sample of firms that disclose their foreign and domestic cash holdings separately, I find that the documented effect is driven by firms that hold a majority of cash overseas. I propose three explanations for my findings: (1) repatriation taxes contribute to the buildup of foreign cash that can be subject to agency problems; (2) repatriation taxes make foreign funds less accessible, thereby increasing internal financing frictions; (3) repatriation taxes motivate excessive investments in financial assets, for which the rate of return is usually lower than firms’ cost of capital. I conduct cross-sectional tests and find evidence consistent with all three explanations.
Keywords: Repatriation taxes, the value of cash holdings, foreign cash, agency costs of free cash flow, segment disclosure, financing friction, AJCA 2004
JEL Classification: H20, H25, M40, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation