They Don’t Owe Us a Thing

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts, without sufficient capital to form a corporation.” –Howard Scott

And none of this is really news to us. Just keep it in mind the next time you hear another sneering rant about all the welfare cheats and lazy moochers bankrupting the country. In translation, that always means the poor have no right to live, only to be condemned and exploited. And whatever you like to pretend about being “middle class”, you know damned well that you and I and almost everyone in this fucked-up country are “the undeserving poor”, as George Bernard Shaw would say, as far as all the heartless fat bastards running the world are concerned. And being a commodity ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it?


Large companies find ways to a zero tax rate
Matt Krantz
USA TODAY 11:50 a.m. EDT October 24, 2013

Story Highlights
Among the S&P 500, 58 companies have effective tax rates of 0% or lower
Companies that lose money are among the most common that have low effective tax rates
Tax reduction techniques, especially transfer payments to foreign units, are used
Despite widespread groans about the recent disclosure that Apple is finding ways to cut its federal tax bill, an analysis shows the computer giant is one of scores of corporations largely dodging the taxman.
A surprising number of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500, 57, have found ways to pay effective tax rates of zero, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.
The effective tax rate is a popular measure used by investors to compare how much companies pay in tax relative to profit.
The news comes months after the Government Accountability Office released a report showing that companies in 2010 reported an average effective tax rate of 12.6%, well below the 35% federal corporate tax rate.
Corporate giants such as telecom firm Verizon, drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and power management firm Eaton, all reported effective tax rates of 0% during the past 12 months. The findings underscore that while many companies bellyache about the top federal income tax rate of 35%, in reality, many pay much less than that, says Nick Yee of Gradient Analytics. “Investors hope company management is doing everything they can to generate profit, legally,” he says. “But the tax code is gray, and there’s often no set guidance.”
Some ways companies are driving their effective tax rates to zero include:
• Offshore transfer payments. One of the favorite ways for companies to slash their tax bills is by setting up foreign subsidiaries to make raw materials and components in countries with low tax rates. The companies’ U.S. operations then purchase these parts from the foreign units at well above cost. By doing this, the overseas unit makes a large profit, which then escapes U.S. taxes, as long as it stays in the foreign country, Yee says. Transfer payments are used at Bristol, Forest Labs, Agilent Technologies, Eaton and Lam Research, he says. Many companies are likely waiting for a U.S. tax-holiday, giving them a chance to bring the cash to the U.S. tax-free, Yee says. Agilent and Bristol declined to comment. The other companies didn’t respond.
• Harvesting losses. Most of the companies with effective tax rates of zero, or even negative, are money losers. While Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney and E-Trade pay taxes, since they lose money, they have negative effective tax rates due to the way the number is calculated. Yet, some big companies that have lost money in the past accumulate credits that can be used to offset tax bills in future years. These reserves can be very lucrative and give profit a boost by lowering the effective tax rate, Yee says. Companies with these tax loss reserves include General Motors and Crown Castle, he says. GM, for instance, released credit from its reserve, taking it down from $45 billion to $11 billion. Investors must be aware, though, that once that $11 billion reserve is used up, the company’s tax rate returns to the statutory rate. All this follows tax rules, but investors need to be aware. “This isn’t anything illegal, but the reserve will run out,” Yee says. GM declined to comment. The other companies didn’t respond.
• Accounting rules. A big reason that Verizon’s effective tax rate is so low, coming in at a negative 4.8%, is largely due to accounting. The company’s sped-up depreciation, severance and pension costs are large credits that contribute to pushing the company’s taxes down, says Jonathan Schildkraut of Evercore. But there’s also a distortion caused by the company’s 55% interest in Verizon Wireless. Vodafone, which owns 45% of Verizon Wireless, pays taxes on its share, but the entire profit is reported on income. Adjusting for this, Verizon’s effective tax rate is closer to 30%, the company says. Verizon is buying Vodafone’s stake, which will eliminate the issue in the future. Similarly, real estate investment trusts have low effective tax rates because they pass profit to shareholders, who then pay the taxes.
The question for investors is whether or not companies paying low effective tax rates might, eventually, attract the attention to regulators. “They are slow at getting at these issues,” Yee says.
** S&P 500 members citing effective tax rates of 0% in past twelve months, ranked by market value (in billions): **
Verizon: $146.4
MetLife: $53.9
Eaton: $32.7
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals: $29.6
Public Storage: $29.5
Ventas: $19.3
Avalonbay Communities: $17.4
Agilent Technologies: $16.9
Vornado Realty Trust: $16.8
Boston Properties: $16.7
Seagate Technology: $15.9
Broadcom: $15.7
News Corp.: $9.8
Lam Research: $8.8
Kimco Realty: $8.6
Waters: $8.5
Macerich: $8.3
Plum Creek Timber: $8.4
PulteGroup: $6.4
Apartment Investment & Management: $4.3
Perkin Elmer: $4.2
Source: S&P Capital IQ


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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4 Responses to They Don’t Owe Us a Thing

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    My unscientific hypothesis has been that the ruling class’s most brilliant move was to condition the middle classes to feel that if they just pull up their bootstraps a little bit harder, they they too can be like them. Never mind that the majority of wealth built by slaveholders, robber barons and monopoly capitalists was built on the backs of others hard labor. As long as the middle class has their faces turned on fealty to the upper classes, by necessity their backs will be turned on the classes. And as you say, we’re all not lower classes in the upper class’s eyes. Good article and commentary, Linda.

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Edit: “…by necessity their backs will be turned on the lower classes.” and “we’re all now lower classes in the upper class’s eyes.” Bad WordPress.

    • Jeff, thanks for the kind comment. It does look like too many of us have deliberately-induced Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe it’s just a natural if primitive and irrational response to power structures? Yet another thing I don’t seem to understand! Paulo Freire noted that”At a certain point in their existential experience, the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction to the oppressor and his way of life. Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration.”
      But lately, I’ve been wondering … if it’s more like sympathetic magic, the pathetic hope that, if only we embrace and ritually copy the assumptions, attitudes and behavior of our oppressors, we too will gain power and privilege.

      Sure, that might work for us!

      And if our dogs would just learn to walk on their hind legs, get credit cards, eat with a fork, and use TV remotes, they could be human too! Or maybe not — since they have no magical bootstraps to work with. – Linda

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        Good points on the oppressor-oppressee(?) relationship. Freiere made two relevant statements that go along with the one you shared. First, “The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom.” This is what we see in much of the knee jerk reactions to the trending political issue of the day…fear of freedom. Second, Freire said, “No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.” This is where the schools have failed the public. Rather than an emphasis on multicultural, diverse curriculums and literature where children can see role models and leaders that look like them and talk like them, they are exposed to an endless parade of founding fathers and “classic” literature that only reinforces the internalization of the oppressor’s values and likenesses. Can you tell I’m a Freire junkie?

        And if my dog chooses to emulate me a little more I’m fine with that. I’m tired of his lazy, good for nothing self sitting around every day while I go to work to put food on the table (bowl).

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