The House Judiciary Committee last week held an antitrust hearing to scrutinize Amazon and other tech companies’ growing dominance. A look at the online retail giant’s new quarterly report and past tax avoidance reveals why lawmakers should be equally concerned about how the tax system allows dominant, profitable corporations to avoid most or all federal tax on their profits.
Amazon, yet again, is poised to pay little or no federal income tax on its record profits, and it appears likely to do so using entirely legal tax breaks for stock options and research and development.
A large majority of Americans want corporations to pay more taxes and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has several proposals to achieve that. The newest idea is to require corporations to pay a minimum tax equal to 15 percent of profits they report to shareholders and to the public if this is less than what they pay under regular corporate tax rules. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quotes several critics of the proposal, but none of their points are convincing.
After weeks of being in no particular hurry to assemble a new COVID-19 economic relief package, the Senate GOP has released its plan. It includes the “Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act,” which would allow business owners to write off 100 percent of the cost of their restaurant meals through the end of 2020. The two most obvious questions to ask about such a plan are “why” and “why now?” Republican lawmakers have not offered sensible responses to either because they have none.
ITEP estimates that if Congress and the president eliminated all Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes paid by employers and employees from Sept. 1 through the end of the year, 64 percent of the benefits would go the richest 20 percent of taxpayers and 24 percent of the benefits would go to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers, as illustrated in the table below. The total cost of this hypothetical proposal would be $336 billion.
Having a sound understanding of who pays taxes and how much is a particularly relevant question now as the nation grapples with a health and economic crisis that is devastating lower-income families and requiring all levels of government to invest more in keeping individuals, families and communities afloat. This year, the share of all taxes paid by the richest 1 percent of Americans (24.3 percent) will be just a bit higher than the share of all income going to this group (20.9 percent). The share of all taxes paid by the poorest fifth of Americans (2 percent) will be just a bit lower than the share of all income going to this group (2.8 percent).
While lawmakers of both parties and policy experts discuss various ways to respond to the continuing COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic downturn, Republicans in Congress are offering a new solution. Their idea, which is still being discussed, is to waive existing limits on business tax credits. This could benefit corporations that are profitable but that nonetheless pay no taxes or very little in taxes because of the many tax breaks and legal loopholes they already enjoy.
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced the “American TRIP Act,” a bill ostensibly designed to encourage Americans to boost the economy by traveling within the United States. The bill is certainly a trip in the colloquial sense of the word.
The Trump administration and its congressional allies have proposed making permanent the expensing provision in the Trump-GOP tax law. Expensing is the most extreme form of accelerated depreciation, which allows businesses to deduct the cost of purchasing equipment more quickly than it wears out. But expensing and other types of accelerated depreciation already account for a very large share of corporate tax breaks and allows many companies to pay nothing at all.
New tax cuts to incentivize bringing jobs back to the United States will fail. No new tax provisions can be more generous than the zero percent rate the 2017 law provides for many offshore profits or the loopholes that allow corporations to shift profits to countries with minimal or no corporate income taxes.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, in a May 19 memo to employees, outlines steps the company is taking to help its customers, small businesses and communities stay afloat. The part…
There is every reason to believe that Amazon will continue its tax-avoidance ways in 2020. The entirely-legal tax avoidance tools the company used to zero out its federal income tax bills over the last three years remain entirely legal today. From accelerated depreciation to the research and development tax credit to the deduction for executive stock options, Amazon’s tax avoidance tools have been blessed by lawmakers, and presidents, of all stripes.
At a time when many companies are facing existential threats due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic shutdown, it is vital to ensure that our corporate tax laws apply fairly to companies that are still turning a profit in these turbulent times.
Last week, President Trump destroyed everyone’s coronavirus press conference bingo card by announcing that a conversation he had with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck inspired him to propose restoring a corporate tax deduction for business entertainment expenses. Trump’s own signature tax plan repealed this break two years ago.
The gigantic Coronavirus-related tax and spending bill enacted last week, the so-called “CARES Act,” sets aside $17 billion in loans for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” It’s generally understood that the bill’s authors want much, if not all, of this $17 billion to go to a single company: Boeing. So it behooves us to ask whether Boeing benefits America and its economy in ways that merit this largesse.
At a time when record numbers of Americans are facing unemployment, state and local governments are facing a perfect storm of growing public investment needs and vanishing tax revenues, and small business owners are struggling to avoid even more layoffs, lavishing tax breaks on the top 1 percent in this way shouldn’t be in anyone’s top 20 list of needed tax changes.
Trump administration officials have reportedly floated the idea of including tax breaks for the airline industry in its package of COVID-19-related stimulus proposals, which would allow airline companies to defer income taxes into the future. This is an odd policy choice since most of the biggest airlines are already using deferral to zero out most or all of their federal income taxes on billions of dollars in profits.
The Trump administration has remained consistently on message about its 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. More than two years after the passage of the law, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin…
A White House proposal to follow Trump’s massive corporate tax cuts with a minimum corporate tax would be like shooting a person on Fifth Avenue and then offering them a band aid.
If we focus on the taxes the company paid in 2019, we see an effective federal income tax rate of just 1.2 percent. And since the company enjoyed federal income tax rebates in 2017 and 2018, this means that over the last three years Amazon has paid zero on $29 billion of U.S. pretax income.
Money doesn’t buy happiness—but it can buy immunity from the reach of Uncle Sam. The IRS is outgunned in cases against corporate giants because that’s how Republican leaders want it to be. They have systematically assaulted the agency’s enforcement capacity through decades of funding cuts. Instead of saving money, these cuts have cost billions: each dollar spent on the IRS results in several dollars of tax revenue collected.
When the White House Council of Economic Advisors last week tweeted that the poorest 50 percent of Americans’ wealth is growing 3 times faster than the wealth of the top 1 percent, we were skeptical. As it turns out, the CEA’s tweet is a reminder that the poorest 50 percent wealth grew twice as fast during Barack Obama’s second term than it has under Trump, but to this day remains far below its pre-recession share and significantly less than what it was 30 years ago.
President Trump and GOP lawmakers often cited corporations’ abuse of tax havens, e.g. shifting profits offshore to avoid taxes, as justification for dramatically lowering the federal corporate tax rate under…
A new report from ITEP released today shows that, based on the first year of financial reports released by companies operating under the new tax law, tax avoidance appears to be every bit as much of a problem under the new tax system as it was before the Trump tax law took effect.
A comprehensive examination of Fortune 500 companies’ financial filings in 2018, the first year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, finds that the law did nothing to curb corporate tax avoidance, with 91 companies paying $0 in taxes on U.S. income in 2018 and profitable companies overall paying a collective effective tax rate of 11.3 percent, which is barely more than half the 21 percent rate established by the tax law, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) said today.
Profitable Fortune 500 companies avoided $73.9 billion in taxes under the first year of the Trump-GOP tax law. The study includes financial filings by 379 Fortune 500 companies that were profitable in 2018; it excludes companies that reported a loss.