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
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.