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Businesses Government Microsoft The Almighty Buck United States News

What the Top US Companies Pay In Taxes 658

Posted by kdawson
from the or-don't dept.
theodp writes "If you've ever wondered how it's possible that you pay more to the IRS than General Electric, Forbes has an explanation. You, my friend, do not have the tax benefit of overseas operations. Microsoft, for example, has its overseas subsidiaries license software to its US parent company in return for handsome royalties that get taxed at lower overseas rates. Exxon limits its tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands that shelter cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan, and Abu Dhabi. As a result, of the $15B it paid in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas. Likewise, GE has $84B in overseas income parked indefinitely outside the US. Now quit your carping and get back to filling out that 1040!"
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What the Top US Companies Pay In Taxes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:50PM (#31719730)

    Good for them. They're maximising what they do with their profits. Giving it to the government means it gets given to banks and incompetent businesses, or the military industrial complex to spend on a war on *insert something here*.

    This is one more reason why countries are better than a single global government. If you screw the businesses in one country they can move to another.

  • by ForexCoder (1208982) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:01PM (#31719794)
    We need to switch to a transaction tax like http://www.apttax.com/ [apttax.com] This would make sure that corporations like those paid their fair share of the taxs.
  • Re:So, what now? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:07PM (#31719838)

    Works the same way as insurance I'm betting.

    Government wants amount A per year so they tax B dollars per company.

    C number of companies don't want to pay it so they create tax shelters. The remaining D companies still need to pay amount A total, so each has to pay more.

    And then we have 40% tax rates. As the pool shrinks, they need to leech off more from the smaller amount of people until finally everybody's gone and tax rates are at some ridiculous ungodly amount.

  • Value Added Tax (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:31PM (#31719984) Journal

    I like the idea of a Value Added Tax over income tax.

    Imagine we have two scenarios: The US with a 20% income tax (both personal and corporate) and one with a 20% sales tax (not the same as VAT, but for simplicity sake we will stick with sales tax). In both cases we have a competitor country with a 20% sales tax.

    In each scenario, imagine a good that costs $100 to produce in each country if there were no taxes

    In scenario 1, an item that would cost $100 to make in the United States costs more as labor costs more due to taxes. It also costs a bit more as there is a tax on the company to make. Now, they ship it overseas were trading partner levies a 20% tax on the consumption of that item.

    In the same scenario, foreign trading partner builds the thing for $100, no tax on the company, no tax on the labor. They ship over here for less than the U.S. can sell it for. Basically the trading partner gets a competitive advantage and forces down the price of items sold in its borders. It makes its money off of the US corporation.

    In scenario 2, there is equality between the trading partners.

    Now, a VAT would have to allow for some type of "kick back" to lower income individuals due to the regressive nature of the tax. But overall, it would go a long way to helping our economy and balancing trade.

  • Re:So, what now? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThreeGigs (239452) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:41PM (#31720058)

    Aside from my reluctance to take financial wisdom seriously from someone who uses "payed" instead of "paid", (sank / sunk notwithstanding) you seem to be forgetting the huge number of corporations who _aren't_ listed on the stock exchange, and who don't pay dividends. Lowering corporate tax rates would take a huge chunk of income away from the US, and do little to encourage companies to move back from... say.. Ireland, with its 12.5% rate.

    Oh, and the way most companies avoid paying taxes? They expand. Got 10 million in profit you don't want to pay taxes on? Open some new locations. Do R&D. Hire some more people. Basically incur expenses. That 40% tax rate you disparage so offhandedly is responsible for influencing decisions that generally lead to more jobs.

  • by meburke (736645) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:42PM (#31720070)

    ..."What you tax, you get less of." According to legend, The Zhou Emperor (China, about 1100 B.C.E) laid a heavy tax on salt. Enterprising traders found they could dissolve 20 times the volume of salt in fermented soy. Since there was no tax on liquids, people became more accustomed to salting and preserving their foods in soy. Should the peasants have been "patriotic" and insisted on paying higher prices for the salt?

    Lay a tax on items and services, and you will get less of those items and services; lay a tax on businesses and you will get less of those businesses. Yup, they will move to friendlier shores. (For those of you thinking about this, what are the implications for Health Care? Arithmetically, price controls are form of taxation, and the new Health Care Reform imposes both controls and taxes.)

    At the present time, Americans in the USA have very favorable prices for petroleum products compared to the rest of the world. What would the cost of gasoline be in the USA if we had to pay taxes on all the oil revenues including the taxes on where the oil is produced? (My estimate is around 9.44 per gallon, YMMV.) Then consider the implications for the Chemical Industry and consumer products.

    You want jobs? Jobs are provided by profitable businesses. The more profitable businesses there are, the more jobs available. The more jobs available, the more competition for qualified employees. The more competition for qualified employees, the better the wages, conditions and benefits. There are equilibrium points with in the system, but when non-productivity costs (like taxes) get too burdensome, it makes it profitable for business to put up with the hassles and expense of moving to those friendlier shores.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:48PM (#31720116) Journal

    Abolishing the corporate income tax sounds great in theory. ... especially if your a conservative economist.

    However, Ireland which is Europe's version of India due to its low 12% corporate income tax (lowest in world) is about to join Greece in going bankrupt. We are already under suffocating debt. Cutting spending wont get the income needed to pay for a basic government.

  • Re:Value Added Tax (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:51PM (#31720130)
    People should only pay for the government they use. VAT is unfair in that respect. What did the government do to deserve 20% of what I buy? Income taxes also make no sense. What we need is a tax that people pay when they use government services. Received $3,000 worth in welfare? Once you get a steady job you are taxed until you can pay back that $3K you "borrowed" from the government. Drive on government roads? Pay a fee when you get your first care licensed*. Add in a town tax for fire/police.

    Governments should follow the same basic economic rules like businesses do, if I don't have an Xbox does it make sense for me to pay for Xbox live which I will never use? No, of course not. Yet that is effectively what VAT and income taxes do.

    *One person isn't going to drive multiple cars at the same time, so it makes little sense to tax someone more if they own 3 cars compared to 1 because the wear on the road is going to be about the same
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:59PM (#31720176)

    It has nothing to do with my empathy for corporations. It has everything to do with what I feel is best for the US. Abolishing corporate taxes would eliminate tax havens and send many foreign companies our way. The tax revenue can be made up by jacking up taxes on the people who own and work for corporations (us). The tax would be more direct and more efficient. Corporate taxes are about 1/4 that of individual income taxes, and only about 1/6 if you include social security payments... so it's not like I'm talking about huge increases in tax burden. Jack up capital gains a bit, maybe hike the top tax brackets a bit. And I guarantee that tax revenue would go up simply because of the extra business done in country.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @09:00PM (#31720638)

    If an artificial entity had rights, it could vote. As it stands, in the US, corporations have "taxation without representation". Sure, they can hire lobbyists, run ads on TV, etc. but in the end, they can not vote and thus can not defend themselves from excessive taxation.

    Sure, Individuals can also hire lobbyists, run ads on TV etc. either individually or collectively but I doubt more than a few would call it equal to the right to vote.

    Personally, I don't think corporations should be taxed at all. Corporate taxes in the end are hidden consumer taxes. When the consumer doesn't see the tax, there is bound to be less oversight on spending. In the end, corporations can only:

    * Hire People (who pay taxes)
    * Buy Stuff (which hires people who pay taxes)
    * Put it in the bank (which provides lower interest rates for people -- who buy stuff and pay taxes)

    Corporations do not _enjoy_ money per se like people do. They can only use money to further their own existence. People on the other hand use money for their own enjoyment and are the terminal point in the production of goods and services and taxing the terminal point (and a terminal point that has free will and can control spending) is the proper place to levy taxes.

  • by ArundelCastle (1581543) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @09:15PM (#31720742)

    you have zero voice in any corporation, no matter whether you work for it or not.

    Isn't that why God created Shareholders? [theecologist.org]
    And CEOs do get fired. [businessweek.com]

    We are heading into an interesting phase of history where more wealth and commodities are held by corporations instead of the state and the church. But I think the last five years have taught everyone that giants of industry can and (inevitably) do crumble, slower because of obsolescence or outstripping resources, or faster when resulting from wrong decisions. They then turn to the governments for reparation, since governments normally can't crumble, unless it's from the right decisions.

    I know this is not the best place to say good things about Bill Gates, but ask yourself if anything else can change the world better and faster than the efficiency and financial resources of industry, mixed with the philanthropy of good government. Wealth has to come from somewhere, just as it has to go somewhere. It's worth taking note when it goes to the right places, even if it didn't seem like it at the time.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @09:35PM (#31720884) Homepage

    To me, this screams for a simplification of tax law. Here's a thought:

    Step 1: Eliminate corporate taxes. (and as another commenter opined, eliminate the ludicrous notion of corporate person-hood while you're at it)

    Now, once you've done step 1, guess what? The argument about capital gains being double-taxation disappears. So:

    Step 2: Eliminate any distinction between capital gains and any other form of income in terms of taxation. Treat all income as just income.

    The big corporations aren't paying corporate taxes anyway, and all it really does is incentivize them to dump their profits into advertising to increase their market cap.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @10:38PM (#31721226) Journal

    I think we either need to abolish individual income taxes or corporate income taxes.

    We can do better than that. If we abolish all taxes on earnings, and move entirely to consumption-based taxation, we'll reverse a lot of bad habits (like our negative rate of savings, for one example). Add to that, the benefit of being able to make business decisions without wasting huge amounts of time and effort on puzzling out the tax consequences. Not to mention, all the brain power we waste on tax compliance.

    -jcr

  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @10:43PM (#31721256) Homepage

    corporations can (and do!) flee. People are much more reluctant to emigrate

    More accurately, corporations can relocate at will with the host country welcoming them, if not overtly giving them concessions like tax breaks. People, on the other hand, are discouraged (if not outright prohibited) from going to a different country to work. Population is a captive audience.

  • Patriotism? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chowderbags (847952) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @11:38PM (#31721508)
    Given how so many people get riled up over patriotism and the like, why don't we point out that these companies not paying their fair share to help America through what amounts to a shell game undermines all the rest of us. If you've got a group of friends ordering pizza and one guy tells the group that he'd totally be good for it but he doesn't have any money, all his money is being held by an offshore company operated by a wholly owned subsidiary that's completely owned by him, you'd tell him to fuck off and go get his own pizza and stop mooching off everyone else.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:13AM (#31721656) Homepage

    A good first step would be to make interest paid by corporations non tax deductible.

    There are three ways a company can pay for its capital. It can pay out dividends, borrow and pay interest, or buy back its own stock. All should get equivalent tax treatment.

    This would make leveraged buyouts and private equity transactions much rarer, because those are basically equity-to-debt conversions. If the tax advantage of debt payments over dividends went away, we'd see less dept-heavy corporate structures and more dividends. This leads to sounder companies more able to weather bad times.

  • by megajason (1766420) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:58AM (#31722018)
    What exactly about the fair tax do you feel is a bad idea?
  • by sjbe (173966) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:28AM (#31723552)

    Lower it to 0% and they'll come running. No reason to tax corporate income at all.

    Naively optimistic.

    For that matter, no reason to tax income at all.

    There are alternatives to be sure but ANY tax scheme you come up with will have trade offs. There is no perfect tax system.

    Tax something that can't run to another country like real estate. That'll become a lot more valuable with 0% taxes on income.

    Your argument is that we should inflate the price of and tax burden on real estate instead of having an income tax? It would solve some problems but create many more.

    Some places do most of their taxation based on real estate. Hong Kong [wikipedia.org] for instance which manages to do it because of their somewhat unique circumstances but not without problems. Problem is you are basically tying your nation's ability to tax to a single cyclical industry (real estate) instead of the entire economy. Works great when the real estate market is hot and tax revenues crater massively when the real estate market cools off. Asset price bubbles become a HUGE problem. Our current fiscal crisis would be FAR worse if the US relied solely on tax revenues from real estate. There is a reason you diversify your stock portfolio and the same thing applies to sources of government revenue. Do you really want to eliminate that much diversification in sources of tax revenues? I think you haven't really thought this through.

    Another problem is that it is very easy these days to locate facilities elsewhere. There is a reason not a lot of manufacturing takes place in Hong Kong or Manhattan any more. Price of land is too expensive. Admittedly those are extreme examples but companies will make decisions about where to locate because of a single dollar per square foot in cost. Drive up the price of real estate and companies will locate where real estate is cheap. Companies will decentralize massively if there is enough tax savings to do so. Remember that labor in the US isn't especially cheap either.

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:39AM (#31724002)

    Because here in the USA we impose taxes on _earning_ money, no wonder why American businesses large and small are moving both blue-collar and white-collar jobs out of the USA, corporate headquarters included! No wonder why we have problems with unemployment.

    Maybe it's time to completely rethink our national taxation system and switch to taxing consumption instead. This is the gist of FairTax (H.R. 25/S. 296--yes, it's a real bill in Congress) that would end all forms of income taxation--along with repealing the 16th Amendment--in favor of a singular 23% consumption tax, with a "prepayment" once a month to every legal household in the USA to pay for the consumption tax up to the Federally-defined poverty level. Note that this tax does not apply to business-to-business sales, sales of used goods (including sales of existing homes), and college tuition.

    By eliminating the entire current income tax system in favor of FairTax, we get these huge benefits:

    1) We save ourselves somewhere between US$350 and US$500 BILLION per year in income tax compliance costs.
    2) Congress can no longer use the income tax code to favor or punish financially even the smallest constituency--the most insidious form of corruption in the USA right now.
    3) American residents and businesses will no longer need to hide their liquid assets outside the USA to keep them out of the reach of the IRS. That means the US$2 TRILLION now participating in the illegal cash-only underground economy and US$13 TRILLION in liquid assets sitting in offshore financial centers beyond US borders--both done as income tax dodges--return to the USA, providing a US$15 TRILLION liquidity boost to the US financial system that would start a new economic boom and then some--the world's largest "private bailout."
    4) American businesses will no longer need to outsource jobs beyond US borders as a tax dodge. That could mean millions upon millions of jobs return to the USA under better tax circumstances, immediately lowering the unemployment rate.
    5) Foreign companies will do a land rush to expand US operations, since the USA is now the world's largest legal income tax haven.
    6) Shipping companies would quickly register their ships under the US flag, since there is no more taxes on the income earned from shipping for a US-flagged ship. That could mean hundreds of thousands of new and repatriated blue-collar jobs as new ships are now constructed and repaired at US ports free from income taxation.

    So what are we waiting for?

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