30 companies paid no U.S. income tax in past three years

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt speaks at a jobs conference held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in July. Immelt is President Obama's "jobs czar."

Thirty large and profitable U.S. corporations paid no income taxes in 2008 through 2010, said a study released on Thursday that arrives as Congress faces rising demands for tax reform, but seems unable or unwilling to act.

Pepco Holdings Inc, a Washington, D.C.-area power company, had the lowest effective tax rate, at negative 57.6 percent, among the 280 Fortune 500 companies studied.

The statutory U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, but over the 2008-2010 period, very few of the companies studied paid it, said the report.

The average effective tax rate for the companies over the period was 18.5 percent, said Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, both think tanks.

Their report also listed General Electric Co, Paccar Inc, PG&E Corp, Computer Sciences Corp and NiSource Inc as among the 30 that paid no taxes.

Corporations will say rightly the loopholes that let them slash their taxes were perfectly legal, the report said.

“But that does not mean that low-tax corporations bear no responsibility … The laws were not enacted in a vacuum; they were adopted in response to relentless corporate lobbying, threats and campaign support,” the report said.

Some of the 30 companies disputed the report’s findings. Boeing Co spokesman Chaz Bickers said the giant aerospace company paid its taxes “here in the United States between 2008-2010 … Our effective income tax rate was 26.5 percent, 22.9 percent, 33.6 percent in 2010, 2009, 2008.”

PRESSING FOR MORE

As Congress and the Obama administration struggle with a sluggish economy and high deficits, corporations are pressing Capitol Hill for more tax breaks and a lower corporate rate.

Taxes are on the agenda of the congressional “super committee” tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in additional budget savings by November 23, but it is so far deadlocked across a familiar divide — Republicans refusing any tax increases, Democrats defending social programs.

On Tuesday, a panel of budget experts warned super committee members they would fail the country if they do not meet their goal. Financial markets have been waiting for many months for signs that Washington can get its financial house in order, but few have been forthcoming.

The report referred back to the 1986 tax reform pushed through by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, who approved the largest corporate tax increase in U.S. history, largely by ending tax breaks, while cutting individual tax rates.

“Reagan solved the problem by sweeping away corporate tax loopholes,” said the report, which was coauthored by Citizens for Tax Justice chief Robert McIntyre. His research 25 years ago played a key role in convincing Reagan reform was needed.

The industrial machinery business enjoyed the lowest effective tax rate during the study period, while the highest rate was paid by healthcare companies, the report said.

“Big Business is getting away with taxation murder,” said Frank Knapp, vice chairman of the American Sustainable Business Council, a progressive business coalition.

“They pay little or no taxes on massive U.S. profits and then have the gall to lobby for … a tax holiday to ‘repatriate’ profits they have stashed offshore.”

MANY TAX BREAKS

What are some of the tax breaks that corporations enjoy? One big one is accelerated depreciation that lets them write off equipment faster than it actually wears out. Deductions on executive stock options help. So do tax breaks for research and development and for making products in the United States instead of overseas. Offshore tax shelters play a role, too.

Power group Duke Energy Corp was one of the 30 companies listed as paying no income taxes in 2008-2010.

Chief Executive James Rogers told Reuters Duke cut its taxes thanks to accelerated depreciation, which he said helped the company build new plants and hire construction workers.

Rogers is a frequent spokesman for a coalition of large multinationals seeking a tax break that would let them bring foreign profits into the United States at a reduced tax rate.

A spokesperson for toymaker Mattel Inc, also among the 30 companies, said Citizens for Tax Justice’s claims were not consistent with the company’s public financial filings.

The average effective corporate tax rate, as calculated by McIntyre’s group, was about 14 percent before the Reagan reforms; afterward it shot up to 26.5 percent in 1988.

As companies found their way around the reforms, the effective rate fell back to about 17 percent by 2002-2003.

Unlike in Reagan’s time, taming corporate tax breaks alone will not solve today’s deficit problem. Such breaks cost the government about $102 billion in lost revenues in 2011, a year when the federal deficit was an estimated $1.3 trillion.

Corporate loopholes are dwarfed by tax breaks that benefit individuals, such as the mortgage interest tax deduction — a middle class sacred cow — on its own worth $104 billion.

Still, said the report: “If we are going to get our nation’s fiscal house in order, increasing corporate income taxes should play an important role.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.