FedEx CEO challenges New York Times publisher to public debate after tax story

FedEx CEO Frederick Smith has challenged the publisher of The New York Times as well as the paper's business editor to a public debate after the Times reported that the company paid nothing in federal taxes in 2018.

In a statement Sunday, Smith argued that the Times's report, published earlier in the day, was "distorted and factually incorrect" and ignored the "$6 billion of capital" that FedEx supposedly "invested in the U.S. economy" in 2018.

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"I hereby challenge A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times and the business section editor to a public debate in Washington, DC with me and the FedEx corporate vice president of tax," wrote Smith.

"Pertinent to this outrageous distortion of the truth is the fact that unlike FedEx, the New York Times paid zero federal income tax in 2017 on earnings of $111 million, and only $30 million in 2018 — 18% of their pretax book income. Also in 2018 the New York Times cut their capital investments nearly in half to $57 million, which equates to a rounding error when compared to the $6 billion of capital that FedEx invested in the U.S. economy during that same year," he argued in the press release.

The Times reported earlier Sunday that FedEx's financial filings revealed the company to have "owed no taxes in the 2018 fiscal year overall." According to the report, the company has saved $1.6 billion so far under the GOP tax reform plan passed in late 2017.

“FedEx invested billions in capital items eligible for accelerated depreciation and made large contributions to our employee pension plans,” the company told the Times in response to that story. “These factors have temporarily lowered our federal income tax, which was the law’s intention to help grow G.D.P., create jobs and increase wages.”

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment on FedEx's statement.