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Most corporations pay zero tax

The GAO study did not investigate why corporations weren’t paying federal income taxes or corporate taxes Can’t really blame the corporations: if there is money to be had by slightly duplicitous behavior, a corporation worth its shareholder’s trust should take the free money. … More than 38,000 foreign corporations had no tax liability in 2005 and 1.2 million U.S. companies, or 66.7 percent of them, paid no income tax, the GAO said.

No wonder the US government is constantly in a deficit! Of course, the politicians rub their collective eyes, and say, “I have no idea why that happened. Must be the previous guy’s fault.”

Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.

The study by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.

Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO’s estimate.

“It’s shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

[From Report says most corporations pay no federal income taxes; lawmakers blame loopholes — chicagotribune.com]

and the investigators don’t want to know either:

An outside tax expert, Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said increasing numbers of limited liability corporations and so-called “S” corporations pay taxes under individual tax codes.

“Half of all business income in the United States now ends up going through the individual tax code,” Edwards said.

The GAO study did not investigate why corporations weren’t paying federal income taxes or corporate taxes

Can’t really blame the corporations: if there is money to be had by slightly duplicitous behavior, a corporation worth its shareholder’s trust should take the free money. No, the culprit is a shoddy tax system which encourages abuse, and a corrupt Congress which writes a business-favorable tax code.

More than 38,000 foreign corporations had no tax liability in 2005 and 1.2 million U.S. companies, or 66.7 percent of them, paid no income tax, the GAO said. Combined, the companies had $2.5 trillion in sales. About 25 percent of large U.S. corporations — those with at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts — did not pay corporate taxes.

The GAO said it analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service, examining samples of corporate returns for the years 1998 through 2005. For 2005, for example, it reviewed 110,003 tax returns from among more than 1.2 million corporations doing business in the U.S.

How about shifting the tax burden away from individuals, and back on corporations? An Alternative Minimum Tax1 for Fortune 500 companies? Something, please.

The report is here or the complete report (PDF)

Concerns about transfer pricing abuse have led researchers to compare the tax liabilities of foreign- and U.S.-controlled corporations. (Transfer prices are the prices related companies charge on intercompany transactions.) However, such comparisons are complicated because other factors may explain the differences in reported tax liabilities. In three prior reports, GAO found differences in the percentages of foreign-controlled and U.S.-controlled corporations reporting no tax liability. GAO was asked to update the previous reports by comparing: (1) the tax liabilities of foreign-controlled domestic corporations (FCDC) and U.S.-controlled corporations (USCC)-including those reporting zero tax liabilities for 1998 through 2005 (the latest available data) and (2) characteristics of FCDCs and USCCs such as age, size, and industry. GAO analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income samples of corporate tax returns. GAO does not make any recommendations in this report. In commenting on a draft of this report, IRS provided comments on technical issues, which we incorporated into this report where appropriate.

FCDCs reported lower tax liabilities than USCCs by most measures shown in this report. A greater percentage of large FCDCs reported no tax liability in a given year from 1998 through 2005. For all corporations, a higher percentage of FCDCs reported no tax liabilities than USCCs through 2001 but differences after 2001 were not statistically significant. Most large FCDCs and USCCs that reported no tax liability in 2005 also reported that they had no current-year income. A smaller proportion of these corporations had losses from prior years and tax credits that eliminated any tax liability. By another measure, large FCDCs were more likely to report no tax liability over multiple years than large USCCs. In 2005, comparisons of FCDCs and USCCs based on ratios of reported tax liabilities to gross receipts or total assets showed that FCDCs reported less tax than USCCs. FCDCs and USCCs differed in age, size, and industry. FCDCs were younger than USCCs in that a greater percentage had been incorporated for 3 years or less from 1998 through 2005. In 2005, FCDCs were larger on average than USCCs in that they reported higher average gross receipts and assets than USCCs. A comparison by industry in 2005 showed that large FCDCs were relatively more concentrated in manufacturing and wholesale trade, while large USCCs were more evenly distributed across industries. GAO did not attempt to determine the extent to which these factors and others, such as transfer pricing abuse, explain differences in tax liabilities.

Footnotes:
  1. apparently there is something like an Alternative Minimum Tax for Corporations, but obviously it is pretty easily manipulated []

4 replies on “Most corporations pay zero tax”

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