Yesterday, Citizens for Tax Justice released a report showing that, over the last three years, 12 of the country’s biggest corporations made $171 bullion in pretax profits while paying a negative tax rate. So the U.S. taxpayer has been subsidizing these giant corporations, even as their profits soared.
One of the companies on the list was mega-manufacturer Boeing, whose vice president of tax, James Zrust, was on Capitol Hill today, testifying on corporate tax reform before the House Ways and Means Committee. Even though Boeing hasn’t paid a dime in federal taxes over the last three years, Zrust still asked for a cut in the corporate tax rate:
Everyone here today is well aware that the combined US statutory tax rate is almost 15 percentage points higher than the average combined rate of other OECD member countries. It is our view that significantly reducing the corporate tax rate will improve U.S. competitiveness. We believe lowering the corporate rate would dramatically reduce tax policy pressure and rhetoric by ensuring that U.S. companies are competitive, and importantly, would not tip the scale in favor of foreign production.
Boeing is far from alone in paying nothing into the federal coffers in recent years. General Electric, for example, made $7.7 billion in pretax profits over the last three years, and collected $4.7 billion in tax benefits. And even when corporations are paying something, it’s far below the statutory 35 percent tax rate. Last year, Google used tax havens to lower its tax rate all the way to 2.4 percent.
Zrust did say tax expenditures — the credits and deductions clogging up the tax code — would have to be “on the table” if the corporate tax rate were to be reduced. And corporate tax reform is something that both parties in Washington have expressed an interest in getting done. But they’re been focused on reform that is either revenue-neutral or even costs the government money (thus increasing the deficit).
CTJ’s numbers show, though, that revenue-positive corporate tax reform is possible and, given the deficits the country faces in the medium- to long-term, desirable to avoid pushing more of the burden of deficit reduction onto the middle class. “Our elected officials have a duty to the American public to make reducing or eliminating the vast array of corporate tax subsidies the centerpiece of any deficit-reduction strategy,” said Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice.