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91 Corporations Paid Zero Tax in First Year of New Code

Corporate tax revenues are near historic lows as a share of GDP, at just 1%. Amazon was one of 91 companies that did not pay federal income taxes on their 2018 U.S. income. (SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons)
Corporate tax revenues are near historic lows as a share of GDP, at just 1%. Amazon was one of 91 companies that did not pay federal income taxes on their 2018 U.S. income. (SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons)
December 26, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. -- During the first year of the Trump administration's new tax law, 91 Fortune 500 companies didn't pay a dime in federal income tax, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Report co-author and Policy Analyst at the Institute Lorena Roque says using legal loopholes, corporations avoided paying $74 billion into the nation's coffers in 2018 alone.

"When we get our paychecks every two weeks, we see how much is deducted in taxes," says Roque. "And so when we hear news that corporations are paying zero, we kind of question, 'Why am I being taxed more than these companies that are worth millions of dollars?' "

Roque points out corporate tax cuts and loopholes have been enacted by Congresses and presidents of both major parties for the past two decades.

Champions of the new tax code argued that lowering corporate rates would lead to increased investments and higher wages, and would increase federal revenues by removing tax shelters.

Roque says outside of a few one-time bonuses, wages for most workers have not gone up, and most companies used the extra cash to buy back stocks, not open new factories. She says if corporate tax avoidance continues, there could be across-the-board cuts in public investments in highways and public transportation, health care and education.

"Ultimately when corporations don't pay their fair share, middle-class Americans have to pay more," says Roque. "And that's either in increase in taxes or a lower amount of public services, and a lower quality of public services."

The new tax law lowered the corporate rate from 35% to 21%, but researchers found the average tax rate actually paid by companies was just 11%.

Tax rates for 56 companies were between zero and 5% in 2018. Corporate tax revenues are near historic lows as a share of the nation's GDP, at just 1%.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE