Ever since the economic crash of 2008, foreign and domestic corporations have fought hard to get back to the days of steady growth. A lot of corporations have grown organically, but many essentially expanded through acquisition. Without the luxury of having excess cash reserves, these corporations typically opt to leverage their acquisitions by taking on some form of debt. This allows for more manageable and projectable cash flows, and the interest payments are tax-deductible – as long as you do not get caught up by an earnings stripping limitation such as IRC Section 163(j).
Section 163j was enacted in 1989 as a means of limiting the interest expense deduction of a taxable corporation that pays to a tax-exempt, or partially tax-exempt, entity whose economic interests coincide with those of the payer. Most commonly, but not solely, this becomes an issue when a foreign parent issues debt through a U.S. subsidiary. This is relevant today as corporations look to reduce their IRS bill by restructuring using controversial tax inversions. Section 163(j) serves as a barrier to corporations who otherwise would have a rather straightforward and otherwise legal means of significantly eroding its U.S. tax base through excessive interest deductions.