Last year, states across the country lost nearly $40 billion in taxes from offshore tax loopholes -- close to the amount spent by all state and local governments on firefighters in 2008, according to the PIRG report.
Companies using offshore tax havens, PIRG reported, include Alcoa, American Express, Bank of America, IBM, ConocoPhillips, Dell Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., McDonald's, Sears, Apple, Cisco Systems, Kroger, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Coca-Cola and FedEx.
The federal Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the top 100 publicly traded companies in the country used offshore tax havens in 2008.
The PIRG report cited specific examples of tax loopholes, including:
* Google cut its tax bills by $3.1 billion from 2008 to 2010, by using accounting techniques nicknamed the "Double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" -- two subsidiaries in Ireland and one in Bermuda.
* Wells Fargo paid no federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, despite making profits in all three years, largely through using 58 offshore subsidiaries.
* Microsoft avoided paying $4.5 billion in federal income taxes over three years by using accounting schemes that artificially shifted company funds to tax-friendly Puerto Rico. Microsoft sent 47 percent of all revenue generated by domestic sales to its Puerto Rican subsidiary.
By the end of 2011, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 290 of Fortune's top 500 companies reported they were holding $1.6 trillion in profits offshore, according to PIRG's new report.
"Working people don't have the means to invest in offshore tax havens. They barely make enough to survive. Average citizens are disenfranchised by our current tax law," said Kris Mallory, executive director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees in West Virginia.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.