Early on Saturday morning, the Senate passed a GOP tax plan that includes a provision that could hugely benefit U.S. companies with billions of dollars stashed overseas—Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft currently have a combined $457 billion held in overseas subsidiaries. It proposes a onetime 14.5% tax on earnings held overseas (it still has to be reconciled with the House version, which proposes a 14% tax), which is far lower than the 35% corporate tax the current tax code requires them to pay on worldwide profits returned to the U.S.
It’s a great return on the tech giants’ move to increase their lobbying spending over the last year. Overall, the Big 5 tech companies increased their lobbying spending in the third quarter of 2017 (the last reporting period) by a collective 24.3% compared to the same quarter in 2016, reports Fast Company‘s Mark Sullivan. Microsoft alone had 81 lobbyists from 16 different firms (and Amazon had 64 lobbyists) working for them to influence Congress specifically on tax issues in the first three quarters of 2017, according to Public Citizen.
But don’t expect the tech companies to necessarily use all those billions in repatriated money to build new manufacturing facilities and amp up hiring, because it hasn’t worked that way with previous such tax amnesties for offshore profits. When the Bush administration did it in 2004, companies spent the money on executive bonuses and pay increases, share buyback and shareholder dividends, reports Sullivan.