Report: Corporations pay fraction of top tax rate

Many leading U.S. corporations paid just a fraction of the top 35 percent tax rate, with some even paying less than zero, according to a new study from liberal advocates.

ADVERTISEMENT
Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found in a study released Tuesday night that 288 corporations paid an average effective rate of 19.4 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Almost 10 percent of those corporations — 26 in all — paid zero tax at all over that five-year span, including heavyweights like Boeing, General Electric and Verizon, the study found.

Close to 40 percent of the companies, 111, paid no tax in at least one of the five years, the two liberal groups found. On the flip side, 62 companies paid an average of more than 30 percent between 2008 and 2012.

“There is plenty of blame to share for today’s sad situation,” the report says. “Corporate apologists will correctly point out that loopholes and tax breaks that allow low-tax corporations to minimize or eliminate their income taxes are generally legal, and that they stem from laws passed over the years by Congress and signed by various presidents.”

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

Reports from Citizens for Tax Justice have played a role in Washington’s tax debate for decades, including in the run-up to the last successful reform of the tax code in 1986.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is scheduled to release a comprehensive tax reform draft on Wednesday, an effort that will almost certainly grapple with the lower effective tax rates that some corporations pay.

But the study also underscores that there’s a broad difference of opinion over how to calculate a corporation’s effective tax rate. The two liberal groups use what corporations say their current income taxes paid were on annual reports and dismiss companies that say that’s too simplistic of a measure.

Charles Bickers, a spokesman for Boeing, said the company’s effective tax rate was 26.4 percent in 2013, which takes into account deferred tax expenses.

“We adhere to the rules, we pay our taxes and we invest in great American jobs,” Bickers said. “Just what we should be doing.”