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Some WA Companies on List of "Corporate Tax Dodgers"

PHOTO: An examination of five years of U.S. tax records for 288 major corporations shows few pay the full corporate tax rate, and 26 paid no federal income tax at all, from 2008 to 2012. Image credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: An examination of five years of U.S. tax records for 288 major corporations shows few pay the full corporate tax rate, and 26 paid no federal income tax at all, from 2008 to 2012. Image credit: iStockphoto.com.
March 3, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Some of Washington's most prominent corporate citizens are benefiting by the billions in terms of federal tax breaks, according to a new report. Boeing figures prominently on the list of 288 major corporations for not paying any federal corporate income tax from 2008 through 2012 - along with 25 other companies, many of which also do business in Washington.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director, Economic Opportunity Institute, Seattle, said it proves that companies - like individuals - will do whatever they can to minimize their tax burdens.

"Many of them are doing the same thing at the state level, too, moving assets around from state to state and exploiting the variations in state laws around corporate taxation, in order to minimize what they pay to state governments," Watkins said. "And that means all of us are having to make up the difference."

The report detailed a few common tax avoidance strategies and said few major corporations pay the 35 percent federal tax rate - the five-year average was just over 19 percent. Add in their government subsidies, and some companies effectively have negative tax rates, it added. The data was compiled by the groups Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

At the state level, Watkins said Washington has improved the transparency of its tax policies. A citizens commission and state agencies examine some tax breaks, and the companies that receive them sometimes have to report on what they're doing to justify them. But when it comes to actually ending a tax break, she said, it has been a different story.

"That's what gets to be very, very hard," Watkins said. "We see a lot of people in very nice suits running around Olympia, every time any bill that would extend a new tax break or repeal a tax break is up for discussion."

As an example, in this legislative session she cited a push to indefinitely extend state tax breaks that began in the 1990s for high-tech companies that, back then, were start-ups. She called it "hypocritical" for today's tech giants to criticize the state for not spending more on higher education, while at the same time avoiding paying the taxes that would fund it.

The report, "The Sorry State of Corporate Taxes," is on the Citizens for Tax Justice website.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA