The Inital Effect of U.S. Tax Reform on Foreign Acquisitions
56 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020 Last revised: 1 Nov 2021
Date Written: October 29, 2021
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 marked a significant change in U.S. domestic and international tax policy, altering incentives for U.S. firms to own foreign assets. We examine the initial response of U.S. firms’ foreign acquisition patterns to the TCJA’s key reform provisions. We find a significant overall decrease in the probability that a foreign target is acquired by a U.S. firm after the reform, suggesting that the net effect of the TCJA was to reduce investment abroad. Cross-sectional variation across target and acquirer characteristics points to the TCJA’s Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) regime and the elimination of the repatriation tax as playing a critical role in influencing cross-border acquisitions by U.S. firms. Specifically, U.S. acquirers with little foreign presence prior to the TCJA are more likely to acquire a foreign target, while U.S. acquirers are less likely to acquire targets in low-tax countries. Results from our empirical analyses are consistent with the TCJA prompting fewer but more value-enhancing, less tax-motivated, foreign M&A deals by U.S. firms.
Keywords: TCJA, acquisitions, tax reform, repatriation taxes, M&A, international tax
JEL Classification: H25, H20, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation