For the second time in seven months, President Trump will visit a Boeing factory to hype corporate tax cuts. He’s chosen the wrong poster child. If there was something preventing the aerospace giant from expanding its business before the Trump-GOP tax law, it certainly wasn’t taxes.
Boeing made headlines in 2016 only because after years of paying zero in federal taxes, it finally paid something. Over 10 years (2008 to 2017), the company paid an effective federal tax rate of 8.4 percent on $54.7 billion of U.S. profits.
The tobacco company Reynolds American announced this week that its full-time employees will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000 in the wake of a sharp reduction in its British parent company’s tax bill.
The online retail giant has built its business model on tax avoidance, and its latest financial filing makes it clear that Amazon continues to be insulated from the nation’s tax system. In 2017, Amazon reported $5.6 billion of U.S. profits and didn’t pay a dime of federal income taxes on it. The company’s financial statement suggests that various tax credits and tax breaks for executive stock options are responsible for zeroing out the company’s tax this year.
In the runup to last fall’s tax debate, it was commonly observed that corporate tax reform is both easy and hard: the easy part is cutting the rate, and the hard part is paying for it by closing loopholes. The real test of Congress’ determination to achieve tax reform would be whether they would stand up to corporate lobbyists and shut down loopholes like accelerated depreciation that allow profitable companies to pay little or no income tax. As is now widely known, Congress was not especially determined: lawmakers aggressively cut the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent, but then expanded depreciation tax breaks instead of repealing them. This week the utility giant (and notable tax avoider) PG&E released its annual financial report assessing the short-term impact of the tax bill on its bottom line. The report shows that even after taking a short-term $147 million tax hit in 2017, the company still won’t pay a dime of current federal income taxes, on balance, on $2.1 billion of income overall.
Never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story, House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately published a press release with the headline, “ExxonMobil to Invest an Additional $50 Billion in the U.S. Due to Tax Reform.” The statement was completely faithful to ExxonMobil’s statement, except for the words “additional” and “due to tax reform.” Not to be outdone, President Trump implied during his State of the Union address that the company was investing $50 billion in response to the new tax law.
But a closer examination of ExxonMobil’s recent history of domestic spending finds that the “new” $50 billion investment is less than what the company invested over the previous five years.
Here are some claims the President made during his State of the Union address, along with the facts.
Moody’s does not believe that corporate tax cuts are trickling down to working people as bonuses and pay raises. The real problem with the corporate PR campaign is that even those economists who supported Trump’s corporate tax cut and claimed it would help workers do not believe that it works this way.
The Walt Disney Corporation announced this week that in the wake of the new tax bill’s passage, it will spend $125 million on one-time bonuses and $50 million on an education program for some employees, all in 2018. This $175 million spending commitment is notable for two reasons: it’s temporary, and it’s a drop in the bucket for a company that’s likely to see annual tax savings of $1.2 billion a year and has already committed to a $50 billion-plus corporate acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s assets.
Now, Apple Inc. would like the American public to know that it has “a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country” a small fraction of its multi-billion-dollar tax cut haul. However, the company’s splashy press release is devoid of any specifics on the jobs it will create as a result of the tax bill. Like other corporate announcements, the company’s recent proclamation of newfound patriotism should be viewed as a public relations ploy designed to convince a skeptical public that working families will see some trickle-down benefit from this historic corporate giveaway.
Last night, Yahoo reported that 81 corporations had announced pay raises and bonuses that they claim result from the Trump-GOP tax law’s reduction in the official corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Of these 81 corporations, 13 were included in ITEP’s most recent corporate tax study, which focuses on the Fortune 500 companies that were profitable every year from 2008 through 2015. These 13 companies had a combined effective tax rate of just 19.1 percent, which undermines the idea that the federal corporate tax rate was holding back their ability to pay workers.
The Walmart corporation announced this week that it will increase its minimum wage to $11 an hour, in a move that the company attributed to the major corporate tax cut signed into law by President Trump last month. The $300 million the company will spend on the wage boost is just a fraction of the more than $2 billion a year ITEP estimates Walmart could net from the corporate tax rate cuts that took effect January 1—but even so, the company felt the need to make the wage boost more affordable by simultaneously closing 63 Sam’s Club stores and laying off thousands of employees. For all the press fanfare surrounding the wage announcement, the quiet layoffs are likely a more meaningful indicator of what awaits the American worker in the wake of the Trump tax cuts.
While many Fortune 500 CEO’s likely had to restrain themselves from preemptively shouting “we’re going to Disneyland” in an homage to the Disney Corporation’s trademark ad spot involving the winner of each year’s Super Bowl, it’s pretty understandable that several of them—including known tax avoiders AT&T, Boeing, Comcast and Wells Fargo—would preemptively make grandiose promises that they will reserve part of their tax cuts for the little people who made it all possible.
The tax bill just approved by Congress was a golden opportunity to solve these problems for good—but turned out to be a colossal missed opportunity. Instead of addressing the hundreds of billions in lost federal tax revenue due to offshore tax avoidance schemes, the Trump-GOP tax bill would forgive most of the taxes owed on the profits held offshore right now and open the floodgates to even more offshore profit-shifting in the future.
Rather than making companies pay what they owe, the final legislation reported out of conference proposes to tax accumulated offshore earnings at a rate lower than the 35 percent that they owe under current law. The final bill would tax offshore earnings being held as cash at a rate of 15.5 percent and tax all other offshore earnings at a rate of 8 percent. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, this proposal would allow U.S. companies to collectively pay about $339 billion in taxes on their offshore earnings, rather than the roughly $752 billion that they owe, meaning that this proposal would give U.S. multinationals a tax break of $413 billion.
Instead of addressing the hundreds of billions in lost federal tax revenue due to offshore tax avoidance schemes, the Senate tax bill would forgive most of the taxes owed on these profits and open the floodgates to even more offshore profit-shifting in the future.
A year and a half after the release of the Panama Papers, a new set of data leaks, the Paradise Papersreleased by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) provides important new information on the tax dodging of wealthy individuals as well as multinational corporations.
The Sunday release of the Paradise Papers has once again brought the issue of offshore tax avoidance to the forefront of public discussion. The papers expose the complex structures that companies such as Apple and Nike have pursued in recent years to pay little to nothing in taxes on their offshore earnings.
Yet even as these revelations make headlines, House Republicans are moving forward with major tax legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that would reward the worst tax avoiders and make it even easier for multinational companies to avoid taxes.
Recent revelations that a Bermuda law firm helped facilitate offshore tax avoidance has heightened awareness of the vast amount of income and wealth flowing into tax and secrecy havens worldwide. The countries through which this firm helped funnel global elites’ assets also act as tax havens for multinational corporations. Recently released data from the Internal Revenue Service show that U.S. corporations claim that 61 percent of their foreign subsidiaries’ pretax worldwide income is being earned in 10 tiny tax haven countries.
Following is a statement by Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, regarding the release of the “Paradise Papers,” a series of documents from Appleby, a leading offshore law firm. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the investigative report today.
Nike earned more than $10 billion in U.S. profits from 2008 to 2015 but only paid 18.6 percent in U.S. federal taxes during this time. This is just over half of the official U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent.
Since Facebook became a public company, its annual revenues have increased by 250 percent from around $8 billion in 2013 to nearly $28 billion last year. In the same time period, the company’s before-tax profits shot up four-and-a-half fold to $12.5 billion. But in this time it has also managed to avoid billions of dollars in U.S. taxes.
Apple is the most valuable public company of all time with a market value of more than $800 billion. Last year, it cleared $45.7 billion[iii] in profits after taxes, making it the most profitable company in the Fortune 500 for the third straight year.
When you think of manufacturing, what comes to mind? According to the U.S. Congress, manufacturing may include things like the production of wrestling-rated films, assembling bouquets of flowers and even slicing cheesecake. These unusual definitions of manufacturing come from the domestic production activities deduction (better known as the manufacturing deduction), a tax break Congress created to encourage manufacturing in the United States.
When the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD) became law in 2004, proponents described it as a way to help American companies manufacture in the United States and export products abroad. In recent years, the DPAD has grown into one of the largest corporate tax expenditures, with an estimated cost of more than $15 billion in 2016 and $174 billion over the next 10 years.
Just how bad has the corporate tax code gotten? The newest edition of Offshore Shell Games, a joint report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and U.S. PIRG, outlines the massive scale of the offshore tax avoidance undertaken by U.S. multinationals. It’s well known that Fortune 500 companies have accumulated a stash of $2.6 trillion in earnings offshore, which has allowed them to avoid an estimated $752 billion in taxes.
This study explores how in 2016 Fortune 500 companies used tax haven subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes on much of their income. It reveals that tax haven use is now standard practice among the Fortune 500 and that a handful of the country’s biggest corporations benefit the most from offshore tax avoidance schemes.
The problem of offshore tax avoidance by American corporations could grow much worse under President Donald Trump’s proposal to adopt a “territorial” tax system, which would exempt the offshore profits of American corporations from U.S. taxes. This change would increase the already substantial benefits American corporations obtain when they use accounting gimmicks to make their profits appear to be earned in a foreign country that has no corporate income tax or has one that is extremely low or easy to avoid.
On Wednesday, reporters waiting to write about President Trump’s much-ballyhooed tax reform speech in Missouri received a fact sheet from the White House informing them that, “Fortune 500 corporations are holding more than $2.6 trillion in profits offshore to avoid $767 billion in Federal taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan plans to visit a Boeing factory in Washington State tomorrow to promote the GOP’s ideas for tax reform, which include a deep cut in the corporate tax rate, while House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady is bringing the same message today to employees of AT&T in Dallas. What is unclear is how much lower taxes for these companies can possibly go.
For a corporation with deeply American roots, Microsoft seems remarkably unable to turn a profit here. Against all odds, the Redmond, Washington-based company continues to claim that virtually all its earnings are in foreign countries. Microsoft’s latest annual report, released earlier this week, shows that over the past two years, the company enjoyed worldwide income of almost $43 billion. It claims to have earned just 0.3 percent of that—$128 million—in the United States.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump called out companies engaging in corporate inversions saying that one proposed inversion was “disgusting” and that “politicians should be ashamed” for allowing it to happen. Despite this rhetoric, the Trump Administration is considering rolling back critical anti-inversion rules as part of its broad regulatory review of recently issued Treasury Department regulations.
In the latest example of how the tax code has been abused and distorted, the Cheesecake Factory is claiming the manufacturing tax deduction, apparently for manufacturing cheesecakes, burgers, and other treats.
The Nike Corporation’s annual financial disclosure of income tax payments is always notable for two recurring trends: the Oregon-based company’s steady shifting of profits into offshore tax havens, and Nike’s apparent effort to conceal how it’s achieving this tax avoidance. This year’s report, released earlier this week, is no exception.
The latest annual financial report released by shipping giant FedEx is yet another reminder that where you stand often depends on where you sit.
The report shows that last year FedEx paid a 7.5 percent federal income tax rate on nearly $3.6 billion of U.S. pretax income and this low rate is due in part to accelerated depreciation, a provision in the tax code that allows the company to write off capital investments faster than they wear out. It’s not surprising, then, that FedEx’s leadership is currently promoting a tax plan that would drop the company’s statutory tax rate even more, and allow it to write off capital investments even faster.
Rather than being known for its pioneering pharmaceuticals, Mylan is increasingly becoming infamous for its pioneering tax avoidance strategies. In 2015, Mylan used an inversion to claim that it is now based in the Netherlands for tax purposes. It is a Dutch company only on paper because ownership of the company was mostly unchanged and it continues to operate largely out of the United States. This maneuver has allowed the company to avoid millions in taxes on its earnings in the U.S. and abroad.
But that’s not the end of Mylan’s innovation when it comes to tax planning. A new report by Reuters found that Mylan is using a surprising new technique for dodging taxes: investing in coal refineries.
The debate over the so-called border adjustment tax (or BAT) took center stage this week when the House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on the topic. Despite strong support by the House Republican leadership and the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady, the proposal faced an onslaught of criticism during the hearing from invited witnesses and members of both parties.
Today the House Ways and Means Committee will hold its first tax reform hearing of 2017, which marks the official opening of the tax reform debate in Congress. True tax reform, if the committee sought to achieve it, could create more jobs and ensure companies are paying their fair share by cracking down on the massive offshore tax avoidance that companies engage in. Unfortunately, the panel of witnesses for today’s hearing is largely made up of representatives of various major corporations that are beneficiaries of the loopholes in our current corporate tax laws. Given this, it seems likely that these panelists will not push for a fairer corporate tax code, but rather a code that allows them to avoid even more taxes and incentivizes moving more jobs offshore.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum recognize the need for additional spending to maintain and upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there is a backlog of…
The Apple corporation made waves earlier this week with its disclosure that its worldwide cash now exceeds $250 billion. Less noticed was a separate disclosure on Wednesday that the company’s…
The most complimentary thing that can be said about the corporate tax changes outlined by President Trump earlier this week is that they weren’t scribbled on a napkin. Unlike supply-side…
President Donald Trump has promised to release new details Wednesday on what he says could be “the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had.” While much is unclear about the shape…
A new executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Friday asks that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin review significant tax regulations issued in 2016. The broader context of the order…
Profitable Fortune 500 companies in a range of economic sectors have been remarkably successful in manipulating the tax system to avoid paying even a dime in tax on billions of dollars in U.S. profits. This ITEP report examines a select, diverse group of 15 corporations’ tax situations to shed light on the widespread nature of corporate tax avoidance. As a group, these companies paid no federal income tax on $21 billion in profits in 2016, and they paid almost no federal income tax on $111 billion in profits over the past five years. All but one received federal tax rebates in 2016, and almost all paid exceedingly low rates over five years.
A new bill introduced this week by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), the Tax Fairness and Transparency Act, would rip out the offshore corporate tax avoidance system by its roots. This…
A new pair of bills introduced by Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) this week would crack down on loopholes that allow corporations and individuals to avoid paying their fair share in…
An Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy analysis finds that, on average, companies that are opposed to the Border Adjustment Tax pay higher tax rates than a coalition of companies…
It’s often noted that corporate tax reform is difficult, in part, because it creates so many winners and losers. As Congress turns its attention to federal corporate tax reform, the…
Fortune 500 Avoiding up to $767 Billion in U.S. Taxes U.S. corporations now hold a record $2.6 trillion offshore, a sum that ballooned by more than $200 billion over the…
With the failure of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration and Republicans lawmakers are moving on to corporate tax reform. At the heart of this debate…
All told, Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $767 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding more than $2.6 trillion of “permanently reinvested” profits offshore. In their latest annual financial reports, 29 of these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less in countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.