American manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand Co. (IR) forged the tools that carved the Panama Canal and shaped Mount Rushmore. When it shifted its legal address to Bermuda in 2001 to reduce taxes, the maneuver sparked bipartisan outrage in Congress.
“These corporations have turned their back on their country,” Nevada Democrat Harry Reid fumed from the Senate floor, adding that his father, a hard-rock miner, had wielded an Ingersoll-Rand jackhammer. “There is no reason the U.S. government should reward tax runaways with lucrative government contracts.”
Over the next dozen years, Congress passed law after law to prohibit American companies that reincorporate overseas from doing business with the federal government.
Those laws haven’t worked. Benefiting from loopholes and a cooperative Obama administration, the companies avoid the ban on federal contracts as effectively as they avoid U.S. taxes.
Ingersoll-Rand continues to score federal work worth hundreds of millions of dollars, touting projects for the Army and Navy in sales brochures. The company’s strategies have even included trying to piggyback on the eligibility of other companies, according to two former Ingersoll-Rand employees.