Fitch says global minimum tax not key credit risk for U.S. non-financial firms

(Reuters) - A landmark agreement by 136 nations to impose a uniform 15% global minimum corporate tax does not carry with it a key credit risk for U.S. non-financial companies, rating agency Fitch said on Tuesday.

The multilateral deal reached last Friday, which was fueled by world leaders’ desire to limit tax avoidance by multinational corporations, is expected to become effective in 2023.

Changes in tax laws stemming from the agreement may not necessarily lead to higher cash tax payments, due to exemptions, tax credits and issuers’ ability to defer tax expenses, Fitch said in a note.

In addition to adopting the 15% minimum corporate tax, the agreement will partly re-allocate taxing rights for large, highly profitable companies to countries where they sell products and services.

In return, the deal requires countries to remove unilateral digital services taxes (DST) that largely targeted U.S. technology giants. It also prohibits new digital levies until the agreement becomes effective or by the end of 2023.

Negotiations over the withdrawal of existing digital services taxes after the deal should ultimately end the threat of tariff wars between the United States and several countries over the levies, U.S. Treasury officials said on Tuesday.

Growing prospects that a global corporate minimum tax rate will become a reality may cause multinational companies to reconsider legal structures and capital investments, Fitch said, adding that there was no guarantee it would be agreed to by lawmakers in the United States, where there is weak bipartisan support for any form of higher taxes.

Multinational companies with significant foreign earnings might prefer a global minimum tax instead of a disparate tax patchwork across countries, as a universal set of rules provides greater clarity for business planning, Fitch said.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Simao