Tax reform is the biggest business story of 2017 for CFOs

Tax reform is top of mind for CFOs this year, according to the latest CNBC Global CFO Council survey, with 20 percent of respondents saying it is the most important business story of 2017.

Furthermore, a majority of North American CFOs (54.2 percent) say they support the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed the House last week, while 20.8 percent oppose it.

Regardless of support, CFOs seem to be confident that the bill’s reforms will have a positive impact on U.S. economic conditions. In addition, 70.9 percent agree (29.2 percent strongly) that corporate tax reforms will create more U.S. jobs, while 83.3 percent agree (20.8 percent strongly) that corporate tax reforms will stimulate U.S. economic growth.

They’re less sure about wages. Only 33.4 percent say corporate tax reform will increase wages, while 45.8 percent either had no opinion or were uncertain of the bill’s effect on wages.

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing more than $4 trillion in market capitalization across a wide variety of sectors. The quarterly poll was conducted from Nov. 3–Nov. 16. Questions about tax reform were asked of North American members only.

North American CFOs have frequently cited corporate tax reform as the most important issue to their companies. After President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, 73.9 percent of CFOs said corporate tax reform should be his administration’s No. 1 priority. But for the last 12 months, they have remained skeptical that the Republican-controlled Congress can make it happen.

In March of this year, North American CFOs were 56 percent confident that corporate tax reform would become a reality, but that number dropped to about 40 percent confidence by September.

Now, even with a bill passing the House and debate on tax reform continuing in the Senate, only 45.8 percent expect their company’s effective tax rate to be lower in 2018 compared to 2017, a sign that many are unsure about tax reform passing and that others may be uncertain of the effects the reforms will have on their companies.


A year ago repatriation of overseas cash ran a distant second in terms of administration priorities for CFOs, with 17.4 percent of U.S. CFOs calling for a repatriation holiday or permanent lower tax on overseas profits brought back to the United States.

Now 45.8 percent of U.S. CFOs say they would take advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s 12 percent tax rate to repatriate some or all of their repatriated cash. And 8.3 percent say they would not take advantage, while another 37.5 percent say their firms are not holding a significant amount of cash overseas.Asked what they would do with the repatriated funds, 29.2 percent say they would buy back stock, the most popular response. The percentage of those who use overseas cash to invest in new plants, equipment or technology: 20.8 percent, compared to 12.5 percent who would raise dividends. Only 8.3 percent plan to use repatriated cash to increase headcount.
Source: CNBC News

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