Make sure you take advantage of the repatriation tax break just like the big boys.
When Congress enacted a "tax holiday" for U.S. companies returning overseas profits to the U.S., giant multinationals Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, and Schering-Plough jumped at the chance, saying they'd bring back $8 billion, $11 billion, and $9.4 billion, respectively. But smaller companies can get a break too. Included in the American Job Creation Act of 2004, which was passed by Congress in October, the holiday -- which effectively drops the usual 35% rate to 5.25% -- requires companies to invest the returned profit in their U.S. operations. Not everyone qualifies for the break -- the company must be U.S.-based and have a foreign subsidiary -- but the size of the company doesn't matter. To receive the break, the company must write a plan, approved by the CEO and board, explaining how the money will be used. The IRS has specified it can't go to bonuses or stockholder dividends. "Even small and midsize companies will be able to take advantage of this," says Margie Rollinson, director of Ernst & Young's International Tax Services Group. "I've seen repatriation plans for companies that have as little as $18 million." -- S.C.