The big cheat of 2018: Corporations make billions in profits, demand tax refunds from the American public

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit Author, editor, expert on income inequality

Many of our country’s largest corporations make billions of dollars in income, use deferrals and write-offs and credits to underpay their current tax bills by staggering amounts, and in some cases claim foreign profits and U.S. losses despite having much of their sales and assets in the United States. These captains of American capitalism are brazenly ignoring their responsibility to their own nation, a nation in desperate need of funding for education and infrastructure and job training.

The corporate tax rate nosedived from 35% to 21% in 2017, but the thirty companies listed here paid only 8.7% of their reported U.S. income in current federal taxes (even worse, an estimated 7.4% if U.S. income were based on a true percentage of sales). That’s $30 to $35 billion – from just 30 companies – that is owed to the American public.

Who’s the worst? Big tech?

Amazon claimed a REFUND on its $11 billion in U.S. profits. It did the same on nearly $6 billion in profits in 2017.

Netflix paid a 35 percent tax on its foreign earnings, a NEGATIVE TAX on its largest-ever U.S. earnings.

IBM had 37% of its 2018 revenue in the U.S., but claimed only 6% of its income in the U.S., and despite making a total profit of over $11 billion, it claimed a REFUND on its federal taxes.

Big Pharma?

Pfizer, whose CEO Ian Read once complained that U.S. taxes had his company fighting “with one hand tied behind our back,” had nearly half of its sales in the U.S. in 2018, yet claimed a $4.4 billion LOSS in the U.S. along with over $16 billion in foreign profits.

Abbott reported 35 percent of its revenues in the U.S., but a LOSS in the U.S. along with a $3.3 billion foreign profit.

Big finance?

Berkshire Hathaway made 85% of its $4 billion in profits in the U.S. in 2018, yet claimed a $1.6 billion tax REFUND while paying over a billion dollars in foreign taxes. Warren Buffett’s company had deferred $77 billion in recent years, then used Trump’s corporate tax break to write off over $25 billion. Billions of dollars owed to the American public just disappeared.

Bank of America paid 3% in federal taxes in 2018, 5% in 2017. Citigroup had 46% of its 2018 revenue in North America but declared only 31% of its profits in the United States. In the last two years it has paid only 7% in U.S. taxes on its declared profits.

Big oil, chemical, construction?

Chevron had two-thirds of its productive oil wells in the United States, and it reported over $20 billion in 2018 profits, yet the company claimed a REFUND on its U.S. taxes while paying nearly $5 billion in foreign taxes.

Exxon has 35% of its revenue and 44% of its long-lived assets in the U.S. but paid twenty times more foreign tax than U.S. tax.

Dow/DuPont had two-thirds of its assets and 35 percent of its sales in the U.S. in 2018, but declared only 4 percent of its profit in the U.S., and claimed a REFUND on its federal taxes (while paying almost $2 billion in foreign taxes).

Caterpillar, which boasts in its annual report about the company’s “high standard for honesty and ethical behavior,” had 41 percent of its sales in the U.S. in 2018 but declared only 27 percent of its income in the U.S. and paid only an 8% tax on those understated profits.

Stiffing the schoolkids with state tax avoidance

Education funding comes mostly from state and local taxes. The average corporate state tax rate for 2018 is just over 6 percent. But the thirty major corporations listed here paid just 3 percent. That’s seven billion dollars taken away from America’s children.

The big hypocrisy: CEOs lament the skills gap, but skip taxes that could train workers

In a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, nearly 90 percent of respondents reported a lack of qualified applicants for job openings. If that’s true, part of the reason is that America’s largest corporations deny us the tax revenue that could be paying for worker education. Corporate greed and hypocrisy are shifting the blame for the skills gap to the millions of Americans being cheated out of job opportunities.

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Reposted from Nation of Change

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Photo from Getty Images

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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