Goldman to Take $5B Charge From New Tax Law

Two-thirds of the writedown is due to a provision of the law designed to encourage companies to repatriate funds from overseas.
Matthew HellerDecember 29, 2017

Goldman Sachs has become the first major U.S. bank to announce it will take an earnings hit from a provision of the new U.S. tax law designed to encourage companies to repatriate funds from overseas.

In a regulatory filing, the bank said Friday that based on currently available information, the new tax code “will result in a reduction of approximately $5 billion in the firm’s earnings for the fourth quarter,” with approximately two-thirds of that resulting from the repatriation tax.

The law signed by President Donald Trump last week encourages companies to repatriate earnings by imposing a one-time levy of 15.5%, which represents a saving compared with what they would have paid if they repatriated their earnings under the previous 35% rate. Companies face the tax regardless of whether they bring the money home or not.

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The remainder of Goldman’s charge would come from “the implementation of the territorial tax system” and the remeasurement of U.S. tax credits known as deferred tax assets (DTA).

As The Financial Times reports, “Investors have been expecting banks to be among the biggest beneficiaries from the sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code,” with the cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% projected to boost earnings by about a fifth.

But several banks have already announced they will have to write down DTAs that are now worth less because of the reduced tax rate. Barclays joined the list on Wednesday, announcing a $1.34 billion charge.

Goldman Sachs ranks among the 50 U.S. multinationals with the most profits held abroad, according to Audit Analytics. Other banks on the list are Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America.

Goldman declined to comment on whether the new regime would spur it to bring cash back to the U.S., noting only that the new headline corporate tax rate of 21% is lower than its typical 28 to 30% rate before the new law.

Overall, multinational businesses are expected to see profits hurt by $2.8 trillion over the next few years due to one-time taxes on overseas profits.