The cash reserves of U.S. companies are at near record levels, but as companies try to avoid paying tax on repatriated earnings, many have relatively little cash in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. It cites a JPMorgan Chase report showing that 600 U.S. multinationals that break down the location of their cash hold about 60% of it outside the U.S., and contrasts that with a Thomson Reuters estimate that the biggest U.S. companies generate only a third of their revenue outside the U.S.

With their cash held overseas, U.S.-based companies may resort to borrowing in the U.S. to fund things like dividends or cash buybacks, an arrangement that Bruce Nolop, former CFO at Pitney Bowes and E-Trade Financial, describes as "a totally inefficient capital structure."

The Journal notes that the SEC is pressing companies to disclose more fully the whereabouts of their cash. Meanwhile, there's talk in Washington of revamping corporate taxes, but little agreement on how to do that.

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