Alright, I guess I'll do the obvious--a short rumination on taxes. I've always believed in taxes, though I certainly would rather my contribution to the federal treasury go to building schools or funding alternative energy than paying Halliburton to fleece us or some new, nutty version of Star Wars (isn't it amazing how scientifically-discredited weapons keep on chugging along?). But, the point here today is to take a quick look a the tax cheats.
Bob McIntyre of the fabulous Citizen of Tax Justice has just put a report "Tax Cheats & Their Enablers." He notes first that, "Taxes, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted a century ago, are 'the price of civilization.' Right, so stop whining about paying taxes unless you are prepared to live without a whole bunch of things you take for granted every day. Bob's report has a useful description of how many individual people hide income and its cost of billions of dollars to society every year.
But, the bigger scam is the corporate tax-dodge. Now, this comes as no surprise--i'd venture to guess that most citizens who pay even a little attention assume corporations pay very little in taxes. Here are a few nuggets:
- This past February, CTJ found that of 252 of America’s largest and most profitable corporations, from 2001 to 2003, " these companies avoided paying state income taxes on almost two-thirds of their U.S. profits—at a cost to state governments of $42 billion. Overall, corporate state tax avoidance has led to a 40 percent drop in state corporate income tax collections as a share of the economy from 1989 to 2003." Wonder why states are having a hard time funding basic social services?
- "One of our biggest banks, Wachovia, used a leasing tax shelter in which it pretended to own a German town’s sewer system. That strange scheme allowed Wachovia to eliminate all of its U.S. federal income taxes in 2002." Hmmm...I know Wachovia has some fuzzy ad campaign touting how wonderful they are.
- "Due to enacted corporate tax breaks, rate reductions and tax sheltering, U.S. corporate tax collections at the federal level alone have fallen from 4.8 percent of the gross domestic product in the 1950s to only 1.6 percent in 2004—a drop of two-thirds. To put that in perspective, if corporations paid the same effective tax rate now that they paid in the fifties, corporate tax payments to the U.S. Treasury would be $380 billion a year higher than they actually are."
Make you mad enough? It should.