General Electric got bailed out by American taxpayers.
So you’d think that GE would return the favor by paying American taxes, right?
Wrong. GE paid no U.S. taxes for 2009.
As CNN points out:
GE had plenty of earnings last year — just not in the United States. For tax purposes, the company’s U.S. operations lost $408 million, while its international businesses netted a $10.8 billion profit.
Indeed, as Forbes notes:
Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.
Unfortunately, GE is not alone.
As I wrote in November:
The Washington Post notes:
About two-thirds of corporations operating in the United States did not pay taxes annually from 1998 to 2005, according to a new report scheduled to be made public today from the U.S. Government Accountability Office…
In 2005, about 28 percent of large corporations paid no taxes…
Dorgan and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) requested the report out of concern that some corporations were using “transfer pricing” to reduce their tax bills. The practice allows multi-national companies to transfer goods and assets between internal divisions so they can record income in a jurisdiction with low tax rates…
[Senator] Levin said: “This report makes clear that too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States.”
Indeed, as Pulitzer prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston documents, American multinationals pay much less in taxes than they should because they use a widespread variety of tax-avoidance scams and schemes, including:
- Selling valuable assets of the American companies to foreign subsidiaries based in tax havens for next to nothing, so that those valuable assets can be taxed at much lower foreign rates
- Pretending that costs were spent in the United States, so that the companies can count them as costs or deductions in the U.S. and pay less taxes to the American government
- Booking profits as if they occurred in the subsidiary’s tax haven countries, so that taxes paid on profits are at the much lower safe haven rate
- Working out sweetheart deals with certain foreign governments, so that the companies can pretend they paid more in foreign taxes than they actually did, to obtain higher U.S. tax credits than are warranted
- Pretending they are headquartered in tax havens like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands or Panama, so that they can enjoy all of the benefits of actually being based in America (including the use of American law and the court system, listing on the Dow, etc.), with the tax benefits associated with having a principal address in a sunny tax haven.
- And myriad other scams
As Johnston documents, the American economy is hurt by the massive underpayment of taxes by the huge multinationals.