Corporate Tax Evaders for Hillary: Why Big Business Supports the Tax-Hiking Candidate

One of the curious aspects of this very curious 2016 election is the significant support for Hillary Clinton from large corporations.  Hillary has proposed many tax hikes, and been silent on the question of reducing the United States’ 35% corporate income tax rate, which is the highest among all industrial nations.  Even President Obama has proposed some reduction, but Hillary’s top tax policy advisor has stated that she will not lower the rate. 

So why does Big Business support Hillary Clinton?  One reason is breathtakingly simple: Big Business doesn’t care about Hillary’s tax hikes because they don’t pay taxes anyway!

A recent study by the General Accounting Office reported that for the tax years from 2008 to 2012, the largest U. S. corporations had an effective tax rate of only 14% of their profits, compared to the nominal tax rate of 35%.  This represents a huge amount of money.  For example, a 2013 report by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations charged that from 2009 to 2012, Apple used international cost-shifting strategies to avoid paying taxes on $74 billion in income.  And Microsoft avoided paying an estimated $19.4 billion in taxes through such (perfectly legal) fictions as pretending that 47% of its U. S. sales are attributable to Puerto Rico. 

Most significantly, the most egregious of these corporate tax evaders are also big contributors to Hillary Clinton.  To avoid being accused of conservative bias by cherry-picking the data, let’s use the list of the top 10 corporate tax evaders put out by Bernie Sanders.  The following chart list the 10 worst corporate tax evaders according to Senator Sanders, their profits and effectively tax rates for select recent years, and Hillary Clinton’s ranking as a recipient of their campaign contributions as calculated from Federal Election Commission filings by the Center for Responsive Politics.   (A negative rate means that the company not only did not pay any taxes, but received tax subsidies from the U. S. Treasury.)

 

Company

Recent Profits (Year(s))

(in billions USD)

Effective Federal Tax Rate as % of Profits

HC’s Rank 2015-16 as Recipient

of Candidate Contributions

Bank of America

4.4              (2010)

-43

1

Corning

3.4  (2008 – 2012)

0

1

Citigroup

4                 (2010)

0

1

Verizon

42.4   (2008 – 2013)

-2%

1

General Electric

33.9   (2008 – 2013)

-9%

1

Pfizer

43     (2010 – 2012)

-5%

1

Boeing

26.4   (2008 – 2013)

-2%

2

FedEx

2.7               (2011)

-4%

6

Merck

5.7               (2009)

-1

1

Honeywell

3     (2009 – 2010)

-17 

8

As you can see, Hillary Clinton was the top recipient of campaign contributions from most of the worst corporate tax evaders.  And this trend holds beyond this list.  Hillary is also the top recipient of contributions from two of the most flagrant tax evaders cited by the Senate subcommittee above, Microsoft and Apple.

Of course, like all politicians, Hillary complains about corporate tax evasion.  However, unlike proposals from Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans, Hillary’s tax proposals leave the present tax code in place, only tweaking it to make it even more complex and onerous.  This is the system which large multinational corporations have been able to readily manipulate to reduce their taxes.  Even with Hillary’s rate hikes and tweaks, as long as the current tax system remains in place, Big Business knows that it will be able to continue with business as usual.  It is also important to point out that medium and small businesses without offshore operations or Washington lobbyists are not able to take advantage of most of these tax loopholes, and pay much higher taxes than the large pro-Clinton multinationals.

Although beyond the scope of this article, there is a flip side to this record which makes Big Business support for Hillary even more understandable.  Not only do large corporations pay less in taxes, they are able to benefit from other taxpayers’ taxes by grabbing large government contracts and subsidies.  For example, General Electric, which not only doesn’t pay taxes but also collects large tax subsidies back from the government, is well known for its ability to get U. S. government business and corporate welfare.

For the historically minded, it recalls France just before the Revolution.  The masses pay the taxes and the untaxed elites enjoy the benefits.  In lieu of Marie Antoinette saying ‘let them eat cake,’ aspiring queen Hillary says ‘let them use loopholes.’  After all, all of her supporters do.

James W. Lucas is an attorney in New York City and the author of Are We the People? How We the People Can Take Charge of Our Constitution and Timely Renewed: Amendments to Restore the American Constitution.

One of the curious aspects of this very curious 2016 election is the significant support for Hillary Clinton from large corporations.  Hillary has proposed many tax hikes, and been silent on the question of reducing the United States’ 35% corporate income tax rate, which is the highest among all industrial nations.  Even President Obama has proposed some reduction, but Hillary’s top tax policy advisor has stated that she will not lower the rate. 

So why does Big Business support Hillary Clinton?  One reason is breathtakingly simple: Big Business doesn’t care about Hillary’s tax hikes because they don’t pay taxes anyway!

A recent study by the General Accounting Office reported that for the tax years from 2008 to 2012, the largest U. S. corporations had an effective tax rate of only 14% of their profits, compared to the nominal tax rate of 35%.  This represents a huge amount of money.  For example, a 2013 report by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations charged that from 2009 to 2012, Apple used international cost-shifting strategies to avoid paying taxes on $74 billion in income.  And Microsoft avoided paying an estimated $19.4 billion in taxes through such (perfectly legal) fictions as pretending that 47% of its U. S. sales are attributable to Puerto Rico. 

Most significantly, the most egregious of these corporate tax evaders are also big contributors to Hillary Clinton.  To avoid being accused of conservative bias by cherry-picking the data, let’s use the list of the top 10 corporate tax evaders put out by Bernie Sanders.  The following chart list the 10 worst corporate tax evaders according to Senator Sanders, their profits and effectively tax rates for select recent years, and Hillary Clinton’s ranking as a recipient of their campaign contributions as calculated from Federal Election Commission filings by the Center for Responsive Politics.   (A negative rate means that the company not only did not pay any taxes, but received tax subsidies from the U. S. Treasury.)

 

Company

Recent Profits (Year(s))

(in billions USD)

Effective Federal Tax Rate as % of Profits

HC’s Rank 2015-16 as Recipient

of Candidate Contributions

Bank of America

4.4              (2010)

-43

1

Corning

3.4  (2008 – 2012)

0

1

Citigroup

4                 (2010)

0

1

Verizon

42.4   (2008 – 2013)

-2%

1

General Electric

33.9   (2008 – 2013)

-9%

1

Pfizer

43     (2010 – 2012)

-5%

1

Boeing

26.4   (2008 – 2013)

-2%

2

FedEx

2.7               (2011)

-4%

6

Merck

5.7               (2009)

-1

1

Honeywell

3     (2009 – 2010)

-17 

8

As you can see, Hillary Clinton was the top recipient of campaign contributions from most of the worst corporate tax evaders.  And this trend holds beyond this list.  Hillary is also the top recipient of contributions from two of the most flagrant tax evaders cited by the Senate subcommittee above, Microsoft and Apple.

Of course, like all politicians, Hillary complains about corporate tax evasion.  However, unlike proposals from Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans, Hillary’s tax proposals leave the present tax code in place, only tweaking it to make it even more complex and onerous.  This is the system which large multinational corporations have been able to readily manipulate to reduce their taxes.  Even with Hillary’s rate hikes and tweaks, as long as the current tax system remains in place, Big Business knows that it will be able to continue with business as usual.  It is also important to point out that medium and small businesses without offshore operations or Washington lobbyists are not able to take advantage of most of these tax loopholes, and pay much higher taxes than the large pro-Clinton multinationals.

Although beyond the scope of this article, there is a flip side to this record which makes Big Business support for Hillary even more understandable.  Not only do large corporations pay less in taxes, they are able to benefit from other taxpayers’ taxes by grabbing large government contracts and subsidies.  For example, General Electric, which not only doesn’t pay taxes but also collects large tax subsidies back from the government, is well known for its ability to get U. S. government business and corporate welfare.

For the historically minded, it recalls France just before the Revolution.  The masses pay the taxes and the untaxed elites enjoy the benefits.  In lieu of Marie Antoinette saying ‘let them eat cake,’ aspiring queen Hillary says ‘let them use loopholes.’  After all, all of her supporters do.

James W. Lucas is an attorney in New York City and the author of Are We the People? How We the People Can Take Charge of Our Constitution and Timely Renewed: Amendments to Restore the American Constitution.