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Dozens of Big Businesses Avoided Corporate Taxes in 2018

A new report calls for more transparency in the information available about corporate federal income taxes. (AdobeStock)
A new report calls for more transparency in the information available about corporate federal income taxes. (AdobeStock)
January 2, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - 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 Lorena Roque said 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," she said, "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 said 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.

Outside of a few one-time bonuses, said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the institute, wages for most workers have not gone up, and most companies used the extra cash to buy back stocks, not open new factories. If the nation's largest corporations continue to avoid paying their fair share, he said, there could be across-the-board cuts in public investments.

"Making our highways passable, making our health-care system better, making our education system better, all of these things are things that we value," Gardner said, "and they're things that will be unfundable if we continue to allow the corporate income tax to be drained."

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 Gross Domestic Product, at just 1%.

The report is online at itep.org.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL