Moral Low Ground


These 26 Fortune 500 Companies Paid Less Than 0% Federal Income Tax Since 2008; Some Made Billions in Tax Breaks

There’s been a lot of hot air blowing from the right lately about how the United States now has the world’s highest corporate tax rate. And with a rate of 39.2%, that would certainly appear to be the case. But the right’s outrage over this “business-killing” taxation rate is, at best, disingenuous, as everyone who follows the world of corporations knows that very few, if any, big companies actually pay 39.2%

Last year, we told you about a Citizens for Tax Justice investigation that revealed that 30 of America’s most profitable corporations actually paid less than 0% in federal income tax since 2008. Now CTJ has released a new report detailing how 26 of those 30 corporations have still paid 0% or gotten tax credits, sometimes amounting to tens of billions of dollars, over the 2008-2011 period.

According to CTJ, 26 of the 30 companies probed continue to enjoy negative federal income tax. These companies actually make money from taxes. This, despite the fact that the 30 companies in the CTJ study raked in $205 billion in pretax US profits.

“These big, profitable corporations are continuing to shift their tax burden onto average Americans,” said Citizens for Tax Justice director Bob McIntyre. “This isn’t fair to the rest of us, it makes no economic sense, and it’s part of the reason our government is running huge budget deficits.”

CTJ points out that if the 30 companies had paid the full corporate tax rate over the 2008-2011 period (it was 35% then), the US government would have been $78.3 billion richer.

Among the biggest tax dodgers from 2008-2011, according to CTJ, are: Pepco Holdings, with a -39.5% federal income tax rate; General Electric (-18.9%); California utility giant PG&E (-18.4%) and Wisconsin Energy (-13.2%).

Tax subsidy champions include San Francisco-based  banking giant Wells Fargo, which got $21.6 billion; General Electric, which got a cool $10.6 billion; Verizon ($7.7 billion) and Boeing ($6.0 billion).

Of the 30 companies, only Du Pont (10.9%), Wells Fargo (3.8%), Honeywell International (2.0%) and DTE Energy (0.2%) paid any federal income tax on US profits between 2008-2011.

The right’s myth of high corporate taxes is further debunked when taxation rates are viewed through the prism of relativity. According to the Treasury Department, corporate taxes fell to 1.2% of gross domestic product over the past three fiscal years. CTJ points out that this is a lower rate than at any time since the 1940s except, ironically, for one year during the Reagan administration. In the 1960s, corporate tax rates averaged nearly 4% of GDP.

“These big, profitable corporations are continuing to shift their tax burden onto average Americans,” said McIntyre. “This isn’t fair to the rest of us, it makes no economic sense, and it’s part of the reason our government is running
huge budget deficits.”

Source: Citizens for Tax Justice
























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  1. MikeApril 11, 2012 at 9:23 amReply

    The way the tax liabilities of these corporations (and many others) have been handled is disgraceful, but the reality is that the corporate tax rate IS very high. The problem is, it’s not these megacorps that foot the bill; it’s the small-to-midsize companies.

    • Brett WilkinsApril 14, 2012 at 3:23 pmReplyAuthor

      Interesting point. Those small to midsize companies don’t have the lobbying power in Washington to achieve the unconscionable tax breaks that the Fortune 500 firms get.

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