LaborTalk for April 5, 2011

Many Companies Pay No Federal Taxes;
The Lost Revenue Means Cuts in Services

By Harry Kelber

Millions of middle-class Americans have less than two weeks to file their 2010 tax return, and many of them are finding it difficult to make the payments, because it was a tough year, especially for those who lost their homes or their jobs or both.

But April 15 will be just another day for the nation's major corporations that won't pay a penny in federal taxes, even though they may have had a highly profitable year.

Take General Electric: Corp. It earned $14,200,000,000 ($14.2 billion) in profits in 2010 , but for the second year in a row, it paid no federal taxes. GE actually got $3.2 billion in tax benefits by having its lawyers exploit loopholes in the tax code.

Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion. For your information, 28 percent of large corporations — better than a quarter — dodge federal taxes entirely.

Consider that the Federal Tax Code consists of 44,000 pages, containing 5.5 million words, it is a veritable gold mine for a smart corporate lawyer to find a phrase or a sentence, which he can exploit to rob the U.S. Treasury with the government's assistance. The failure of corporations to pay their fair share of taxes causes shortfalls in federal and state revenues, resulting in cuts in public services for working people.

Corporations Lobby for Subsidies and Lower Tax Rates

It is unfortunate that unions and their members know so little about the tax code and government financial policies in general. Remember the AFL-CIO's "Make Wall Street Pay!" It remained just a series of rhetorical jabs, without ever talking directly to the bankers and financiers. AFL-CIO leaders never decided on how much money to ask of the bankers and investment firms. It was a phony campaign.

President Obama picked a top team of economic advisers who came from lucrative jobs in Wall Street and who made sure that the nation's major banks were bailed out with multiple billions from the U.S. Treasury. At the same time, the White House had hardly any important union advisers to present labor's views on economic policy.

The AFL-CIO should be concerned about current plans to revise tax rates. It should come forward with proposals to make corporations pay a proper tax rate and to question the subsidies that are granted companies, especially if they engage in outsourcing jobs. The so-called financial reform law still serves the needs of the banks and investment houses

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It is high time that the AFL-CIO revive its Education Department, which it dropped years ago in an economy move during a budget crisis. As the world is becoming more complex, it is essential that union members be kept informed about the issues that affect them. There is a genuine need for understanding the tax code and eliminating the loopholes that corporations use to enrich themselves at our expense.

This can be an important way to prevent companies from using legal trickery to loot the U.S. Treasury. — Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on April 8, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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April 11 is the start of a five-part series on the AFL-CIO

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