It's dismaying that some large corporations operating in West Virginia reap fat profits, yet use foreign havens and other loopholes to elude federal and state taxes. The Mountain State lost $106 million revenue last year because of it, a new national report says.
This cheats small businesses and average families who can't exploit the loopholes -- and who must make up revenue not paid by big tax-avoiders.
Leaders of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group met with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to beg for loophole-plugging.
Director Gary Zuckett said six firms with West Virginia operations -- Verizon Communications, DuPont chemicals, NiSource gas, American Electric Power, First Energy and General Electric -- paid zero federal income tax in at least one of the past four years.
They're among U.S. firms cited in a 2011 study by Citizens for Tax Justice, which reported:
"In the past three years, 78 corporations had at least one year when they paid no federal income tax at all, while 30 corporations paid not a dime over the entire three years. Those 30 corporations paid nothing, even though they made $160 billion in profits over that period."
If the firms had paid 35 percent corporate income tax, they would have pumped more than $50 billion into the U.S. treasury. Instead, other taxpayers must make up the lost $50 billion.
A CTJ report said average Americans can rightly complain: "I pay more federal income tax than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., all put together."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group reported last week that West Virginia's treasury suffered $106 million loss in 2012 from offshoring -- while other states across America lost $40 billion. PIRG official Dan Smith said:
"Tax dodging is not a victimless crime. When corporations skirt taxes, the public is stuck with the tab."
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says many large U.S. firms open tiny offices and bank accounts in low-tax foreign places -- Bermuda, Luxembourg, Switzerland, etc. -- and funnel profits through them to elude U.S. taxes. One notorious office building in the Cayman Islands supposedly houses 18,857 corporations, or at least mail drops for them.
President Obama's Justice Department is recovering billions by prosecuting wealthy Americans who hide money in Swiss bank accounts. Obama -- along with Charleston-born Cisco CEO John Chambers -- suggests lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate to remove part of the incentive to shift money overseas.
But a cleanup won't be easy, because Republicans in Congress focus intently on protecting the rich at all costs. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote last month: "Those at the top are so adroit in avoiding taxes and in getting Washington to give them tax breaks."
One way or another, we hope Sen. Manchin and other members of Congress crack down on fat-cats who manipulate loopholes to elude their fair share of taxes.