Senate bill offers tax incentive for transportation investments

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Highway Trust Fund is headed for the red again, and Congress must act by May 31 to stock the fund with at least enough money to get through the busy summer construction season.

Two U.S. senators have filed a bill to make highway funding attractive to U.S. companies that hold foreign earnings in offshore accounts.

Dubbed the Invest in Transportation Act, S981 originated with an unlikely pair of lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., but their concept holds a level of appeal among their counterparts.

The act would create a tax break for U.S. companies that bring their earnings back and invest it in transportation. The act of bringing foreign earnings back to the U.S. is known as repatriation.

The current tax rate on repatriated funds is 35 percent. The Paul-Boxer bill would offer a one-time tax rate of 6.5 percent as long as the companies agree to invest it in U.S. transportation.

“Our nation’s highways and bridges are in desperate need of repair and demand our immediate attention,” Paul said in a statement. “My legislation with Senator Boxer is a fiscally responsible approach to providing the necessary resources to correct the shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, while strengthening the U.S. economy and keeping jobs here at home. I am proud to work with Senator Boxer today to introduce the Invest in Transportation Act of 2015.”

“This bipartisan repatriation proposal will stimulate the economy by bringing back hundreds of billions of American dollars currently sitting offshore back to America and will provide much-needed revenue to the Highway Trust Fund,” Boxer stated.

Research cited by Paul and Boxer indicates that there is approximately $2 trillion in foreign earnings held offshore by U.S. companies.

The White House recently offered up a surface transportation bill called the GROW AMERICA Act, which calls for a one-time tax break of 14 percent on repatriated funds. GROW AMERICA is short for Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act.

A separate effort in the U.S. House of Representatives filed in January by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., as HR413, would use repatriated funds to create a national infrastructure bank from which money could be lent to pay for transportation projects.

See related story:
Unlikely pair of U.S. senators announce bill to pay for infrastructure

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