Shedding Light in the Darkness

How the World’s Largest Companies Avoid Paying Tax


US corporate giants such as Apple, Walmart and General Electric have stashed $1.4 trillion in tax havens, despite receiving trillions of dollars in taxpayer support, according to a report by anti-poverty charity Oxfam. The sum, larger than the economic output of Russia, South Korea and Spain, is held in an “opaque and secretive network” of 1,608 subsidiaries based offshore, said Oxfam.

The charity said its report was a further illustration of “massive systematic abuse” of the global tax system. Technology giant Apple, the world’s second biggest company, topped the list, with some $181 billion held offshore in three subsidiaries.

Boston-based conglomerate General Electric, which Oxfam said has received $28 billion in taxpayer backing, was second with $119 billion stored in 118 tax haven subsidiaries.

Microsoft was third with $108 billion, in a top 10 that also included pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company not owned by an oil-producing state.

Oxfam contrasted the $1.4 trillion held offshore with the $1 trillion paid in tax by the top 50 US firms between 2008 and 2014. It pointed out that the companies had also enjoyed a combined $11.2 trillion in federal loans, bailouts and loan guarantees during the same period.

The top 50 US firms spent $2.6 billion between 2008 and 2014 on lobbying the US government, Oxfam said. “For every $1 spent on lobbying, these 50 companies collectively received $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.”

“We can’t go on with a situation where the rich and powerful are not paying their fair share of tax, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill,” said Robbie Silverman, senior tax adviser at Oxfam.


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