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10 of the Biggest Corporate Tax Cheats In America

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April 5, 2011   By Joshua Holland AlterNet

If you or I were running a small business and we kept one set of books showing how much money we were making and a second set for the IRS that painted a picture of an enterprise on the brink of bankruptcy, we’d end up behind bars.

But that’s standard operating procedure for corporate America. In fact, public corporations have to do it — the law requires that they keep one set of books for their shareholders, and another for the IRS. As tax journalist David Cay Johnston explained, “Many corporations routinely tell investors they incur millions in corporate income taxes, while the financial records they give the IRS show they owe nothing or are due refunds.”

In the records kept by the IRS, corporations cook the books “by using tax shelters, offsetting income with losses from years ago, and employing countless other devices that make them look like paupers to the IRS but money machines to investors.”We got a peek into this process last week, when the New York Times revealed that multinational giant GE is not only avoiding corporate income taxes this year, but is taking a “tax benefit” of $3 billion. According to the Times, the company’s “extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

But of course, GE is not alone. Here are 10 other big corporate tax evaders (with an assist from an MSNBC analysis of leading corporate tax-dodgers). Keep in mind that neither political party ever actually cuts spending significantly, so every dollar these companies avoid paying is one that will come out of the paychecks of working America.

1. Google

CEO: Eric Schmidt (117 on Forbes list of the wealthiest with a net worth of $6.3 billion in 2010.)

2010 Pre-tax Profit: $10.8 billion

How Google avoids paying US taxes: According to MSNBC, Google reports income in overseas tax havens and then reports its costs here at home. Google also patents its products abroad, licenses its technologies from its overseas subsidiaries and then writes off the costs of the licenses.

Google fun-fact: Google rents 200 goats, complete with goatherd and a border collie, to keep the grass nicely trimmed at Google HQ. Oh, and this week Bloomberg reported that the Federal Trade Commission is considering launching a major investigation into Google’s anti-competitive practices.

2. News Corp

CEO: Rupert Murdoch (Murdoch ranked 53rd on Forbes’ list of highest-paid CEOs and was the 117th richest person in the world last year.)

2010 Pre-tax Profit: $3.3 billion

Taxation strategy: In 2008, the Government Accountability Office issued an analysis concluding that one of the companies with the greatest number of subsidiaries in offshore tax-havens was none other than News Corp., which then had more than 150 of them scattered across the world.

News Corp. fun-fact: Fox “News” devoted significant airtime to hyping the financial ties between Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family, and the developers of the Park 51 Muslim community center planned for downtown Manhattan. Fox implied there was something sinister about the financier, but didn’t mention that he is also News Corp.’s second largest shareholder, with 7 percent of the company’s stock.

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