The December passage of U.S. tax reform legislation includes $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, $4 trillion in tax increases and an overhaul of how businesses will be taxed.
Businesses are sorting through the impact of this substantial, far-reaching legislation. The headline grabber for many businesses is the reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, which puts the U.S. in line with the rest of the industrialized world.
However, tax reform goes far beyond a rate change. Reform will require modifications throughout organizations and could cause a significant transformation of business structures and operations.
A change of this size requires an understanding and application of the new law, which will challenge the tax community, especially since many technical aspects of the law are still undefined or in development.
For nontax professionals, the challenge may be more about how to communicate the impact to your key stakeholders and how to address the changes in financial statements, tax provisions and employee compensation.
Businesses face important decisions in responding to these changes. It’s clear companies will be impacted in diverse ways, depending on their structures or lines of business. A multinational enterprise, for example, will need to address how it may make use of repatriated overseas profits and take into consideration the operational impact of the move by the U.S. from a worldwide to a territorial tax system.
Almost every company will feel the impact of the immediate expensing of capital expenditures. For some this will be positive; for others, long-held approaches to financing may need to be re-examined and perhaps revised. In the near term, Minneapolis-St. Paul company leaders will be faced with several potential must-dos:
• Determine how the law’s “givebacks” (i.e. the loss of deductions related to interest, manufacturing or like-kind exchanges) in tandem with the rate reductions can impact current and deferred taxes.
• Prepare for dealing with changes in operating cash flow.
• Understand the potential impact of tax reform on customers and determine if your business plan is still aligned to your customers’ new reality.
• Ensure that technology systems align with requirements under the new law.
In the longer term, as business leaders see a sharper picture of how their enterprises fit into the new landscape, tax reform could be transformational. Businesses may:
• Use enhanced cash flow to expand their merger and acquisition activity.
• Explore adjusting their value chains and developing more U.S.-based manufacturing or operating units.
• Consider incorporation for “pass-through” businesses, given the now favorable 21 percent corporate tax rate.
Tax reform signals exciting times ahead for businesses of all sizes and for their tax professionals. It offers a once-in-a-career opportunity to reshape the U.S. business landscape.
Dawn Courrier and Kevin Smith are tax practice leaders at KPMG Minneapolis. This article represents the views of the authors only and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG LLP.