Among companies listed on the S&P 500, almost one in nine paid an effective tax rate of zero percent — or even lower — over the past year, according to an analysis by USA Today.
There are 57 separate companies listed on the index that paid a zero percent rate from the past year. Those companies include both household names like Verizon and News Corp. and lesser-known corporate giants like the data storage manufacturer Seagate (market value $15.9 billion) and Public Storage (market value $29.5 billion). Many of the companies USA Today identified in its analysis as paying negative rates make the list because they lost money, but several were profitable. Previous analyses have shown that the typical corporation pays a lower effective tax rate than most middle-class families, and a far lower one than the statutory corporate tax rate against which business interests disingenuously rail.
Getting to a zero percent tax rate despite turning a profit requires creative accounting, but not lawbreaking. The corporate tax code allows companies to avoid tax liability even in years when they turn a profit. Some of the profitable companies on the newspaper’s list, such as General Motors, achieved a zero percent rate by banking tax credits from previous years when business was bad. But the more common gambit involves moving revenues from parent companies to offshore subsidiaries based in tax haven countries in the Caribbean, Europe, and elsewhere.