10 Big Businesses That Have Moved Their Headquarters Abroad to Pay Less U.S. Taxes

Updated: June 17, 2009

Some call the practice of moving a company abroad to avoid taxes "corporate inversion," while others deem these businesses "expatriate corporations." Whichever term you prefer, the fact is that several successful American companies have moved their headquarters overseas in recent years to avoid hefty U.S. taxes.

  1. Halliburton: Houston-based Halliburton, which offers a broad array of oil-field technologies and services to upstream oil and gas customers worldwide, announced the opening of a corporate headquarters in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai on March 12, 2007. The company, which was once led by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, said that its relocation was part of a strategy that it announced in mid-2006 to concentrate its efforts in the Middle East in order to attract business.

  2. Accenture:Consulting company Accenture is the Bermuda-based arm of the former Big Five accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP, which is known for its involvement in the Enron Corp. scandal. Accenture has done pretty well for itself, garnering $662 million in contracts between Oct. 1, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2002. The company has argued that its operations should not be called corporate inversion because while Arthur Andersen was based in the U.S., Accenture never was.

  3. Foster Wheeler Ltd.: The engineering firm Foster Wheeler moved its corporate headquarters to Bermuda in 2001, when the company was headed toward bankruptcy. Nearly 70 percent of Foster Wheeler's business comes from its international operations, and the move to Bermuda enabled the company to avoid paying taxes on income that it earned outside of the U.S. Most of the company's main offices remain in New Jersey.

  4. Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd.: This New Jersey-based company, which manufactures Thermo King refrigerated trucks, also moved to Bermuda in 2001. In 2007, the company faced an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) audit over the way it classified some debt in its reincorporation in Bermuda in 2002.

  5. Tyco International Ltd.: Manufacturers and providers of services in health care, flow control, security, telecommunications and electronics, Tyco International reincorporated in Bermuda in 1997. In 2002, Tyco International's chairman and CEO, L. Dennis Kozlowski, was indicted on charges that he had evaded more than $1 million in New York sales taxes.

  6. Cooper Industries Inc.: Cooper Industries, a company that makes electrical products and tools such as Halo and Lumière brand light fixtures, moved from Houston to Bermuda in 2002 and subsequently garnered $3.6 million in government contracts.

    "We felt that American companies, based upon the tax laws that are written today, are clearly put at an economic disadvantage to foreign companies," said Victoria Guennewig, a spokeswoman for Cooper Industries, in defense of the company's relocation.

  7. Noble Drilling Services Inc.: Noble, the fourth-largest U.S. offshore oil and natural-gas driller, calls the Cayman Islands home but operates out of Sugar Land, Texas. In 2002, the U.S. started a campaign to remove Noble and nine other American companies with offshore headquarters from the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Bermuda's Finance Minister, Eugene Cox, was outraged.

  8. Global Crossing: Global Crossing provides telecommunications solutions over the world's first integrated global IP-based network. The company is legally based in Bermuda, although its administrative headquarters are in New Jersey.

  9. Seagate Technology LLC: The California designer, manufacturer and marketer of rigid disk drives is run from the Cayman Islands. In December 2006, Seagate's Barracuda 750GB hard drive ranked No. 9 in PC World's "The 20 Most Innovative Products of the Year."

  10. Nabors Industries Ltd.: Nabors Industries, the world's biggest onshore oil and gas-drilling contractor, moved from Texas to Bermuda and Barbados in 2002. Nabors Industries apparently reported $428.4 million in profit in the U.S. in 2005 and would have paid $86 million in taxes on that money.

U.S. companies will surely continue to seek tax shelter in other countries, but only time will tell if they'll be able to get away with this scheme.

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