Offshore Tax Havens
U.S. corporations use offshore tax havens and other accounting gimmicks to avoid paying as much as $620 billion a year in federal income taxes. A large loophole at the heart of U.S. tax law enables corporations to avoid paying taxes on foreign profits until they are brought home. Known as “deferral,” it provides a huge incentive to keep profits offshore as long as possible. Many corporations choose never to bring the profits home and never pay U.S. taxes on them.
Deferral gives corporations enormous incentives to use accounting tricks to make it appear that profits earned here were generated in an offshore tax haven. Profits are funneled through subsidiaries, often shell companies with few employees and little real business activity. Effectively, firms launder U.S. profits to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Here’s a list of 10 tax-dodging corporations excerpted from the Americans for Tax Fairness report.
|Bank of America runs its business through more than 300 offshore tax-haven subsidiaries. It reported $17.2 billion in accumulated offshore profits in 2012. It would owe $4.3 billion in US taxes if these funds were brought back to the US.
|Citigroup had $42.6 billion in foreign profits parked offshore in 2012 on which it paid no US taxes. It reported that it would owe $11.5 billion if it brings these funds back to the US. A significant chunk is being held in tax-haven countries.
|ExxonMobil had a three-year federal income tax rate of just 15 percent. This gave the company a tax subsidy worth $6.2 billion from 2010-2012. It had $43 billion in offshore profits at the end of 2012, on which it paid no US taxes.
|FedEx made $6 billion over the last three years and didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes, in part because the tax code subsidized its purchase of new planes. This gave FedEx a huge tax subsidy worth $2.1 billion.
|General Electric received a tax subsidy of nearly $29 billion over the last 11 years. While dodging paying its fair share of federal income taxes, GE pocketed $21.8 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
|Honeywell had profits of $5 billion from 2009 to 2012. Yet it paid only $50 million in federal income taxes for the period. Its tax rate was just 1 percent over the last four years. This gave it a huge tax subsidy worth $1.7 billion.
|Merck had profits of $13.6 billion and paid $2.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2012. While dodging its fair share of federal income taxes, it pocketed $8.7 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
|Microsoft saved $4.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2011 by transferring profits to a subsidiary in the tax haven of Puerto Rico. It had $60.8 billion in profits stashed offshore in 2012 on which it paid no US taxes.
|Pfizer paid no US income taxes from 2010 to 2012 while earning $43 billion worldwide. It did this in part by performing accounting acrobatics to shift its US profits offshore. It received $2.2 billion in federal tax refunds.
|Verizon made $19.3 billion in US pretax profits from 2008 to 2012, yet didn’t pay any federal income taxes during the period. Instead, it got $535 million in tax rebates. Verizon’s effective federal income tax rate was negative 2.8 percent from 2008 to 2012.