Tax Day 2013: How six big corporations avoid paying taxes (video)

From Apple and Microsoft to Bank of America and Wells Fargo, big business hides its profits offshore. Photo: Beautiful Grand Caymans, home to U.S. corporate profits

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2013 — Even as corporations cry, “Woe is me” at tax time, don’t be fooled into taking these corporate tears as anything but crocodile tears.

Corporations’ earnings jump each year by 20%, yet they pay the lowest corporate taxes on their profits since 1950 when their tax rate was 42%. Now by moving jobs abroad and sheltering their tax dollars in offshore accounts, many mega businesses pay little or no taxes.

Many of the corporate fat cats whine that their tax rate is 35%, ignoring the massive tax loopholes, which allow the average U.S. corporation to actually pay on average only 12.1%. Some call this the golden age for corporate profits. To add insult to injury, 25 of those businesses paid their CEOs more than they paid in income taxes. 

Tax shelter

Yet keep in mind these are the same corporations that not only profit from being based in a democracy, but from being an American business which includes such benefits as U.S. government funded research, an infrastructure from communication and the Internet to our highways and air traffic, an educational system that makes it possible for the U.S. to still lead in innovation, and the billions of dollars spent on Defense and Homeland Security. For corporations not to pay their fair share in taxes is unpatriotic.

So if you are one of those unlucky ones who will be writing a check to the IRS today, you have plenty to fume about, especially when you realize that many of our biggest companies, some who received government bailouts, are doing quite well, thank you, all the while to continue to whine about being over-taxed.

To make up for those billions of dollars that corporations avoid paying in taxes, you the taxpayer pay an average of a $1,000 a year, enough to feed a family of four for a month, while small businesses cough up an extra $3,000 annually.

Here are six giant corporations, listed alphabetically, for you to sample, which continue to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, thanks to their tax accountants and lawyers and our tax loopholes:


1. Bank of America, which took billions of dollars of TARP’s bail money between 2007 and 2010, and then rebounded between 2010 to 2012, paid no taxes. Instead the IRS sent BofA $941 million in refunds from the Uncle Sam.

In 2012, BofA reported that it had $17.2 billion in offshore profits worth $4.3 billion in taxes, if the government were able to tax them. However, those billions sit in 314 offshore tax havens, 175 of them in the infamous Cayman Islands.

2. Exxon/Mobil,received $6.2 billion in oil subsidies from the government from 2010 to 2012. In 2009, it earned $43 billion in 2012 but paid no taxes, again thanks to stashing profits in places like the Bahamas and Singapore.

3. FedEx, that company Congress loves to throw in the face of the U.S. Postal Service, made $6 billion over the last three years and paid not one penny in income taxes, all because our tax code allowed the U.S. government to subsidize the purchase of their new planes. Even as FedEx avoids paying its fair share in taxes, it has received $10.3 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from our government from 2006 through 2012.

4. Microsoft saved $4.5 billion dollars in federal income taxes between 2009 and 2011 by parking its profits in a tax haven subsidiary in Puerto Rico. Yet at first glance, Microsoft looks like the poor, little rich kid, paying nearly 50% in corporate taxes on a $20 billion profit. But most of Microsoft’s profits are actually elsewhere than here.

In 2012, Microsoft had $60.8 billion in profits sitting offshore and will pay no taxes on them. In fact, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) found that 47 cents of every dollar earned by Microsoft in America gets immediately transferred to the subsidiary in Puerto Rico, where it remains untaxed to the tune of $4 million a day.


5. Pfizer owed $10 billion in taxes, but it found the necessary loopholes, thus paying no taxes, thanks to its offshore subsidiaries in places like Luxembourg and the Isle of Jersey.

From 2010 to 2012, the mega pharmaceutical paid no taxes while earning $43 billion worldwide. Instead it received $2.2 billion in federal refunds. And it has $73 billion of profits offshore, paying not a dime in taxes.

6. Verizon, which made $19.3 billion in profits from 2008 to 2012, paid no taxes, instead getting $535 million in refunds.

In fact, even as it got a nine-year contract with Uncle Sam worth $5 billion, its tax rate is —2.8%. Yep, negative 2.8%. Meanwhile $1.9 billion in profits is nested in offshore accounts so that not a dime in taxes is paid on those billions. Meanwhile, it has cut 28,500 jobs over the last four years even as it grows richer on the back of its 115 million customers.

Other companies that divert their profits overseas to foreign tax havens to avoid paying taxes include: Apple, Amazon, Boeing, Citicorp, Google, Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation, Starbucks, Walmart, and Wells Fargo. (See video below)

Corporate America, which spends billions of dollars on lobbyists to convince you and especially Congress about how tough they have it, has done a remarkable job making average Americans think an unreasonable government and its regulations are the problem, even as these mega-businesses take bailout money and subsidies from the government.

They fight to get their taxes lowered even further while pushing Congress to increase the Social Security retirement age (Microsoft) or reduce Social Security benefits (Bank of America).

Sadly, too many of us have drunk the Kool Aid, thinking it’s our government that has run amuck when it is the corporate world that has. Yet at the very moment we are imbibing the corporate concoction, American jobs are shipped overseas, workers are fired and CEO’s earn on average 231 times as much as their employees make.

Now is your blood boiling?

[Also of interest: You pay taxes, why not the Fat Cats?]

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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