It's time to play America's favorite game show, Why Being a Corporation is Better Than Being a Person! Today's theme is: taxes--specifically, how the phrase "death and taxes" may apply to people, but certainly not to big companies.
In fact AlterNet just came up with a list of the top 10 "Biggest Corporate Tax Cheats," and Washington-based companies make up exactly one-fifth of it.
Boeing kicks things off at #3.
CEO: W. James McNerney (According to Forbes, McNerney is the 101st most highly compensated CEO, pulling in a cool $58 million over the last five years.)
2010 Pre-tax Profit: $4.5 billion
How Boeing avoid paying US taxes: According to MSNBC, "despite a double-digit tax rate, Boeing has managed to escape paying federal taxes for the last three years thanks to a plethora of foreign subsidiaries, which act as a tax haven. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the airplane maker paid 0.3 percent of its pre-tax income in federal income taxes in 2010."
Boeing fun fact: Boeing may be a defense contractor that's flush with cash, but it reportedly uses prison labor to assemble cable assemblies for the F-15 fighter. At least the jobs are in the US!
And at #10 (frankly, we're surprised they're so low), it's Microsoft.
CEO: Steve Ballmer (With a fortune of $14.5 billion, Ballmer is the 33rd richest person, according to Forbes.)
2010 Pre-tax Profit: $25 billion.
Taxation strategy: Microsoft is a master of shifting income through various foreign countries-- "to Bermuda via the Netherlands via Ireland" --in order to limit its domestic income subject to taxation. According to the blog MicrosoftTaxDodge, a carefully timed press release threatening to move the company's headquarters out of Washington state resulted in Rep. Ross Hunter, a 17-year former manager at Microsoft, pushing through "two huge gifts [for the company]: a $100 million annual tax cut and an estimated $1.25 billion in amnesty on its 13-year Nevada tax dodge."
Microsoft fun-fact: Both US and European regulators have found Microsoft in violation of anti-trust laws - it's practically the firm's business model.
The full list is:
2. News Corp.
8. Time Warner
9. Morgan Stanley
The difference between those 10 companies and, say, convicted tax-cheat Wesley Snipes, is that corporate tax evasion is considered "savvy business" while individual tax evasion is a "felony."