Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
While we have discussed the fairness of the taxes paid and not paid by large corporations in the past, the alleged high corporate tax rate is once again in the news. It seems that after contraception the Right’s most consistent accusation is that the corporate tax rate is way too high for corporations to compete in the world market. The facts seem to differ from those claims however.
“Corporations are lobbying for lower corporate rates and an exemption for profits they shift offshore. McIntyre, however, says “Our study provides proof that too many corporations are already being coddled by our tax system.” Findings in the report include:
The average effective tax rate for all 280 companies in the study over the three year period was 18.5 percent; for the period 2009-2010 it was 17.3 percent, less than half the statutory rate of 35 percent.
78 of the companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less.
30 companies enjoyed a negative income tax rate over the entire three year period on their combined pre-tax profits of $160 billion.
Total tax subsidies given to all 280 profitable corporations amounted to $222.7 billion from 2008-2010.
Wells Fargo tops the list of 280 U.S. corporations receiving the most in tax subsidies, getting nearly $18 billion in tax breaks from the U.S. treasury in the last three years.
Pepco Holdings had the lowest effective tax rate of all the companies in the study, at negative 57.6 percent over the three year period.” Citizens for Tax Justice
If I understand those numbers correctly, large corporations are paying about half of the rate that they claim is too high. Another example of how little these corporations are paying was recently discussed in a Crooks and Liars article on General Electric. “General Electric is a prime example of this trend. Despite being highly profitable and subject to a theoretical tax rate of 35 percent, GE paid only a 11.3 percent tax rate in 2011. And that number was the most they paid in more than a decade. In 2010, they actually paid no taxes and got a net tax benefit of $3 billion. For the 10 year period prior to that, their effective average tax rate was 2.3 percent.” Cooks and Liars
Recently, President Obama proposed a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 28 percent for many corporations while claiming to reduce or eliminate many tax loopholes. “President Obama will ask Congress to scrub the corporate tax code of dozens of loopholes and subsidies to reduce the top rate to 28 percent, down from 35 percent, while giving preferences to manufacturers that would set their maximum effective rate at 25 percent, a senior administration official said on Tuesday. Mr. Obama also would establish a minimum tax on multinational corporations’ foreign earnings, the official said, to discourage “accounting games to shift profits abroad” or actual relocation of production overseas.” New York Times
In light of the low actual rates paid already by these corporations, I don’t understand why the rate even needs to be reduced. When General Electric pays an average of only 2.3% over ten years, what will they pay under Obama’s proposal? I think the proposal to set a minimum tax is good in theory, but the devil is in the details. I will believe it when I see it.
When politicians are screaming that corporations are people and should be allowed to deny their employees any insurance coverage for services that they have religious objections to, shouldn’t we make sure that they pay tax rates that Real people pay? How many workers were laid off or terminated while these profitable companies paid very little, if any, taxes? What are your thoughts?
(Disclosure: The author owns a small amount of shares in General Electric stock.)