The U.S. Treasury Department softened new rules aimed at preventing multinational companies from shifting their profits offshore to lower-tax countries — a response to sustained criticism from big business and from members of Congress, who'd asked that they be delayed and scaled back.

The rules, first proposed in April, aim to restrict lending among subsidiaries of the same corporate parent, which can create income streams in low-tax countries and tax-deductible interest payments in the U.S. But tax lawyers who represent corporate clients complained that the proposed language went too far, banning common cash-management practices that aren't aimed at tax avoidance.

In issuing final regulatory language Thursday, Treasury officials exempted from the new rules "cash pooling," a common practice under which companies sweep daily excess cash from various subsidiaries into a single account. They also included limited exemptions for specific cases — including for regulated financial and insurance companies, which are already restricted in their ability to issue debt among subsidiaries — and delayed requirements for companies to document their related-party lending until Jan. 1, 2018.

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