Corporations Demand Budget Cuts, Owe Government $620 Billion

Dave Johnson

How MANY times have we heard corporate-funded conservatives and “centrists” whine about “deficits” and demand cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better? How many times?

“We’re broke.” “Taxpayers can’t afford these … (pensions, health programs, infrastructure repair, food stamps, high-speed rail systems, scientific studies, you name it).” Over and over we are subjected to demands that our own government cut back on the things it does — teachers and schools, roads, food programs, dams, bridges, scientific research, health care (but never, ever on military corporate contracts).

This “deficits” drumbeat is incessant because it is so well funded with corporate cash.

Fortune 500 Corporations Owe $620 Billion In Taxes

What would you say if you learned that the same corporations funding this corporate-conservative anti-government “deficit” propaganda actually owed the government more than $600 billion (billion with a ‘B’), and another $90 billion each year?

Last week Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund released an important report showing how Fortune 500 companies use tax-haven subsidiaries to keep $2.1 trillion out of the country to dodge up to $620 billion in U.S. taxes. These are profits already on the books, so the taxes are due – except for a “deferral” loophole that was quietly inserted into the tax code in the 1986 tax “reform” law.

The CTJ/PIRG report is titled, “Offshore Shell Games.” (Read the whole thing if you can, skim it if you can’t.) From the Executive Summary:

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to the tax code. Rather than paying their fair share, many multinational corporations use accounting tricks to pretend for tax purposes that a substantial portion of their profits are generated in offshore tax havens, countries with minimal or no taxes where a company’s presence may be as little as a mailbox. Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year.

Congress, by failing to take action to end this tax avoidance, forces ordinary Americans to make up the difference. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid by using tax havens must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, cuts to public investments and public services, or increased federal debt.

This tax dodging also costs about $90 billion every year in lost federal tax revenue.

Again, the corporations that are funding this anti-government, conservative propaganda machine that is demanding cutbacks in everything that makes our lives better (but never, ever on military corporate contracts) are dodging $620 billion in taxes and another $90 billion every year.

Tax Repatriation Holiday

But wait, there’s more. (They have almost everything but they always want more.)

The giant corporations are engaged in a campaign to get out of paying those taxes they owe – now and in the future. They are demanding that the government cut the tax rate, not only on those taxes they already owe, but on future taxes as well.

This is a bit tricky, but just remember the word “repatriation.” If you hear someone in Congress talk about “repatriation” they are almost always talking about letting these corporations off the hook on this tax bill.

For example, when you hear that the “highway bill” can be “paid for” using “repatriation” (click the link to get a sense of this) they are saying they’ll let these corporations pay significantly less then they owe, and then use what’s left over (if any) to pay for the highway bill.

When you hear a politician say they will “raise money” using “corporate tax reform,” what they are saying is let these corporations off the hook for a chunk of their taxes now and in the future. (When you hear the word “reform” in Washington these days it means get ready to get hit upside the head with a hammer.) In this usage, “How Tax Reform Could Help Save U.S. Infrastructure” actually means let these corporations pay significantly less than the $620 billion they owe, and use the rest for … whatever.

Apologies in advance for the cliché here, but hearing corporate-conservative complaints about deficits when the corporations funding them are dodging hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes is like the child who shoots his parents and then asks for leniency because he’s an orphan. Enough about deficits and cuts already; make them pay their taxes.


CAF petition: Tell your Senators: No tax breaks for corporations that shift profits and jobs offshore.

Americans for Tax Fairness petition: Tell Congress it’s time that corporations pay what they owe – their fair share! And when they do, we can invest in America’s future.

Progressive Congress: Tell Congress to make corporations pay what they owe on the $2.1 trillion in profits stashed offshore.

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