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Several major U.S. companies had trouble linking a 2004 tax break they received for bringing back overseas profits with their ability to hire more workers or increase research spending, according to responses to a Senate investigation released Thursday.
A handful of U.S.-based multinationals including Altria Group Inc. (MO), Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO) said they had little data or could not show a connection between the 2004 repatriation tax holiday and subsequent job growth at their companies, according to their answers to a survey from the Democratic staff of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Their comments come at a time when the 2004 repatriation tax holiday is under intense scrutiny as lawmakers consider whether repeating the tax break could create new jobs or spur the U.S. economy.
Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) have introduced a bill designed to generate jobs by offering a corporate tax break to companies bringing back foreign earnings if they can show a payroll expansion. Companies including Google Inc. (GOOG), Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Pfizer Inc. (PFE) have pressed for the tax break, arguing the influx of cash would boost the economy.
However, the report from the Investigations subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) cast doubt on whether the extra cash prompted companies to create new jobs or add to their budget for research and development, the goals of the 2004 tax break.
"Our data does not demonstrate that the repatriation resulted in a net increase in Altria Group's U.S. jobs or U.S. [research and development] expenditures," the Altria Group wrote in its response. Altria's layoffs during the six-year time period the investigation covered were linked to spinning off Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Philip Morris International Inc. (PM), the company wrote.
Several companies said they had no data to establish whether the tax break had helped them add U.S. jobs or increase research-and-development spending.
"We have no way to determine what the levels of employment or R&D spending may have been in the absence" of the tax break, wrote executives from Procter & Gamble. Officials from Schering-Plough, which was acquired by Merck & Co. (MRK) in 2009, and Coca-Cola also said they did not have data to track the connection.
A response from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) said its increases in U.S. employees and research and development spending were "partly attributable" to the repatriated funds.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) said while it lacked concrete data, the company felt the funds still would be helpful.
"While it is difficult to point to a direct connection between repatriation and jobs and research and development, when a company can access cash at a lower rate, it is placed in a much better position to capitalize on new business opportunities," the company wrote.
-By Kristina Peterson, Dow Jones Newswires; 347-882-7215; firstname.lastname@example.org