Surprise! Tech giants dominate global tax-dodging list of shame

Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Google etc etc etc

Tech firms are the largest corporate tax dodgers in the US, according to a new report from Oxfam.

The charity has published a special report on "how America's dysfunctional tax system costs billions in corporate tax dodging" called Broken at the Top [PDF], and at the top of the top are computer companies.

Apple is the number one tax dodger, keeping a staggering $181bn in three tax haven subsidiaries so it doesn't have to pay US taxes. Third comes Microsoft with $108bn in five special subsidiaries.

The top ten are then rounded out by IBM in fifth position ($61bn in 15 locations), Cisco in eighth ($53bn in 59 subsidiaries) and Google in tenth ($47bn in two subsidiaries).

Half of the top 10 tax dodgers are tech firms and they account for $451bn in money held offshore. On average, those five have paid 21.9 per cent tax, meaning that their offshore holdings are keeping $99bn out of the US tax system – the equivalent of $310 for every man, woman and child in America.

In comparison to the tech giants' 21.9 per cent tax rate, the statutory tax rate in the US is 35 per cent and the average US worker pays 31.5 per cent in taxes.

Other notables in the rundown of the US' largest 50 corporations are Hewlett-Packard ($43bn) and Oracle ($38bn).

Take with one hand, take with the other

Oxfam also highlights in its report the millions of dollars that these same companies receive in the form of taxpayer support, and lists the amount of money spent on lobbying the US government between 2008 and 2014.

"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," the anti-poverty organization correlated.

The report is timely in that it came a week after a series of revelations about the tax dodging efforts of hundreds of individuals that were named following a huge leak of information from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, called the Panama Papers.

Taken together, Oxfam says the information "reveals a system that concentrates wealth into fewer and fewer hands, puts the tax burden unfairly on those least able to pay, and deprives the world of billions in revenues countries need to fight poverty."

Oxfam has accompanied the report with an interactive website that highlights the impact that corporate tax dodging has on ordinary citizens, and urges people to support legislation currently in Congress called the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would close corporate tax loopholes and increase transparency in tax dodging outside the US.

Google, Apple, Microsoft et al all argue they have broken no laws, and simply pay the tax they owe – or rather, they owe it to their shareholders to minimize their tax bills as much as possible. ®

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