The GOP tax plan could save US tech billions — these 4 companies alone have $500 billion abroad

Key Points
  • Apple has $246 billion outside the U.S.
  • Microsoft has $127.9 billion held by foreign subsidiaries

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) greets Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella before a meeting of the American Technology Council in the State Dining Room of the White House
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

A new tax reform plan from House Republicans aims to permanently lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, and calls for one-time tax rate of 12 percent on cash returns and 5 percent on non-cash for corporate money repatriated from overseas.

That could benefit America's biggest and most profitable companies: Tech giants like Apple and Microsoft. Apple, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle combined have nearly $500 billion cash and cash equivalents held overseas, according to recent regulatory filings.

CFRA analyst Scott Kessler estimated in October that Apple, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle would be the biggest beneficiaries of a lower tax rate on repatriated earnings. Indeed, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he would want to invest more in the U.S. if Apple repatriated foreign earnings, and Cisco chief Chuck Robbins told CNBC after the election that he would put the money toward a combination of dividends, buybacks and M&A activity.

Technology company cash

  • Apple: Total of $261.5 billion in cash plus marketable securities

-$246 billion of that cash, 94 percent of the total, was outside the U.S., as of August

  • Microsoft: $133.0 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments totaled as of June 30, 2017

-$127.9 billion was held by foreign subsidiaries and would be subject to material repatriation tax effects.

  • Cisco: $70.49 billion in cash, cash equivalents and investments

- $67.5 billion held by various foreign subsidies, as of July 29, 2017

  • Oracle: $66.08 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of May 31, 2017.

- $54.4 billion held by foreign subsidiaries, $47.5 billion of which is considered "indefinitely reinvested in [Oracle's] foreign operations outside the United States"

Still, technology stocks didn't get too big of a boost after details of the tax reform plan were released. Analysts have widely expected a tax holiday with rates of 10 percent for repatriation, consistent with earlier proposals by President Donald Trump's administration and campaign. The state and federal corporate income tax is around 38.9 percent, according to federal budget proposals.

Apple CEO Cook: Tax reform is sorely needed

"This [is] a knee jerk reaction as the tech bulls were hoping for a bigger boost around repatriation and the potential tailwinds for cash rich tech giants such as Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle among others," wrote Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer and head of technology research at GBH Insights. "Repatriation was a major potential catalyst that the reality did not meet the optimism the Street was hoping for."

CNBC reached out to Apple and Cisco for comment on the new tax proposals. Oracle and Microsoft declined to comment.

Immediately following last year's election, Baird analyst Will Power cautioned that the Trump administration's policies still might have mixed implications for companies like Apple. He noted that Apple "could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a potential cash repatriation tax holiday or change in corporate tax rates," Apple could also be hurt by any policies that favor American manufacturing over foreign supply chains.

Broadcom, for instance, cannot repatriate foreign earnings to the U.S. and would not benefit from a lower related tax rate, Kessler wrote, because of an international domicile in Singapore. In 2016, California-based Broadcom merged with Singapore-based Avago, and the newly formed company was legally organized in Singapore.

President Trump said on Thursday that Broadcom aims to move back the United States.

"America is again the best place to lead a business with a global footprint," Broadcom Chief Executive Hock Tan said.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert and Christine Wang contributed to this report

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