The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth

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258 Fortune 500 Companies Were Consistently Profitable Over an 8-Year Period and Paid a 21.2 Percent Average Effective Tax Rate

“This study is a long-term, unprecedented examination of corporation taxes paid—or not paid—by the nation’s biggest, most profitable firms,” said Matthew Gardner, an ITEP senior fellow and lead author of the report. “It reveals that many of the big corporations that are lobbying for a lower corporate tax rate to be more ‘competitive’ already pay substantially less than the 35 percent statutory rate.”

The study examines eight years of data on federal income taxes paid by Fortune 500 firms that provided sufficient, reliable information in their financial reports to allow calculation of their effective U.S. and foreign tax rates. It excludes companies that had a loss in any year between 2008 and 2015. Two-hundred and fifty-eight companies were profitable in every year of the study. Although the statutory corporate tax rate is 35 percent, collectively, these companies paid an average effective rate of 21.2 percent. 

Among the report’s key findings:

• 100 companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less

• 24 companies paid zero taxes in four out of eight years

• 18 companies (including General Electric, International Paper, and PG&E) paid no federal income tax over the eight-year period. 

• Collectively, the 258 corporations enjoyed $513 billion in tax breaks over the last eight years. More than half of those tax breaks, $277 billion, went to just 25 of the most profitable corporations. 



Media Coverage:

New York Times: Profitable Companies, No Taxes: Here’s How They Did It 

CNBC: Tax policy expert: The 35% corporate rate is a myth, so cutting it won't bring overseas money back

CBS News: Meet the 18 profitable companies that paid no taxes over 8 years

The Business Journals: $178 billion in profits, no taxes paid

The Hill: Sanders offers bill aimed at preventing corporate tax avoidance

Palm Beach Post: FPL’s NextEra Energy paid no income taxes during six of eight years

More Coming Soon...

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