American Corporations are all About Profits - Not People
Have you heard the news that corporate profits hit an all-time high this past quarter? That’s right, with unemployment stuck near double digits and the wages of American workers continuing to fall, American businesses racked up profits at an annualized rate of $1.66 trillion.
So, even though they themselves may be hurting, shouldn’t patriotic Americans cheer these profits? After all, we have a huge federal budget deficit, and at least the tax revenues from these huge profits will improve the shortfall, right?
Wrong. The sad truth is that American corporations aren’t all that American, and they’re certainly not patriotic. General Electric, fourth on the Fortune 500, had an excellent year in 2009, making profits of $10.3 billion. Their U.S. tax bill? Uncle Sam owed them $1.1 billion. How does that happen? Well, somewhere in their 24,000 page tax return are the details of how they consistently manage to make serious profits overseas but lose money in the U.S..
A similar story applies to Exxon Mobile, our nation’s most profitable company. Their profits for tax year 2008 climbed to a record high of $42.5 billion — the most ever for an American company. They did wind up having to pay $15 billion in income taxes, but unfortunately for Americans, none of that money was paid to the IRS. Exxon’s U.S. tax bill was a whopping zero dollars.
Sadly, these companies are anything but alone in their ability to exploit tax loopholes and dodge paying U.S. taxes. In fact, a 2008 study prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that two out of three American corporations paid ZERO, zip, nada in federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.
Unlike average Americans, corporations enjoy considerable flexibility in both operations and the resulting tax treatment. Exxon, for example, has several wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that allow them to legally shelter cash flow. Other corporations, like Google, who was recently able to reduce its effective tax rate to just 2.4%, accomplish their magic by shuffling income through foreign countries using well-known tax strategies like the “Double Irish” or “Dutch Sandwich.”Continued on the next page