(Read more: Apple's cash 'a little bit silly': Wilbur Ross)
"When you're talking about 10 percent of GDP in corporate offshore profits, that in my opinion is pretty significant," NerdWallet tax analyst Dana Lime said in an interview. "All this money offshore could be used to fund our government."
Among the leaders in offshore profits are General Electric, Microsoft and Pfizer (see chart).
Repatriating foreign profits has been a hot-button issue among lawmakers, CEOs and lobbyists for years.
Much of the discussion centers around figuring out a way to make it fair so that companies' profits are not taxed twice. Supporters of tax breaks for repatriated profits say companies can use the money to expand their businesses and hire new workers.
Critics say too many companies are using dummy corporations overseas to hide profits.
"We have corporate lobbyists arguing for lower tax rates, and in exchange they'll hire certain types of workers," Lime said. "That's a bunch of baloney. It's proven not to be the case."
(Read more: Google pays $55 million UK tax on sales of $5 billion)
Indeed, the repatriation argument is complicated.
The dilemma essentially is over whether companies would put the windfall from a tax break to good use, or simply use it to hoard on balance sheets or use for dividends and stock buybacks.
Corporate America collectively has about $1.8 trillion on its balance sheet—excluding financial companies—and has been spending cash primarily to reward shareholders.
Companies such as Cablevision Systems, Intel and Carnival that have been among the leaders in capital expenditures have seen their shares badly underperform the market. Companies that have used the cash for buybacks and dividends, meanwhile, have prospered.