Corporate Tax Avoidance Cost States $42 Billion

Thursday, December 8, 2011 Print Email

Sixty-eight of the most consistently profitable Fortune 500 companies paid no state corporate income tax in at least one of the last three years, and 20 of the companies averaged a tax rate of zero or less from 2008-2010.

Nevertheless, the companies told shareholders they made nearly $117 billion in pre-tax U.S. profits during those no-tax years, and 16 of the companies had multiple no-tax years.

A new study from the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that 265 of the most consistently profitable U.S. corporations cost states $42.7 billion over three years. If the 265 corporations had paid the 6.2 percent average state corporate tax rate on the $1.33 trillion in U.S. profits that they reported to their shareholders, they would have paid $82.6 billion in state corporate income taxes over the 2008-10 period. Instead, they paid only $39.9 billion.

Some companies, such as DuPont, Goodrich, International Paper and Intel, paid no net state income tax over the full three-year period. Among the 20 corporations who paid zero or less in state corporate income taxes over the three-year period were utility provider Pepco Holdings, pharmaceutical giant Baxter International, and fast food provider Yum Brands.

Of the 280 profitable Fortune 500 corporations included in an earlier study from the two groups last month on corporate tax avoidance at the federal level, 265 fully disclosed their state and local income tax payments (see 30 Major Corporations Avoided Federal Income Taxes). Using information from the companies’ annual reports, the report found that between 2008 and 2010, these 265 companies paid state income taxes equal to only 3.0 percent of their U.S. profits.

Since the average statutory state corporate tax rate is about 6.2 percent (weighted by gross state product), that means that over this period, about half of their profits escaped state taxes entirely.

“Our report shows these corporations raked in a combined $1.33 trillion in profits in the last three years, and far too many have managed to shelter half or more of their profits from state taxes,” said Matthew Gardner, executive director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and the report’s co-author. “They’re so busy avoiding taxes, it’s no wonder they’re not creating any new jobs.”

In 2009 alone, 32 companies paid no state income tax. Another 105 of the companies paid less than half the weighted-average statutory state corporate tax rate that year, meaning that fully one half of the companies in the sample paid less than half the average state tax rate.

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