Twenty-nine of the 100 top-paid CEOs in the United States brought in more compensation last year than the total dollars their corporation paid in federal income taxes, according to a study released Tuesday by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government.
Entitled Fleecing Uncle Sam, the report notes that the number of CEOs who are paid more than the government is on the rise—up from 25 of the top 100 in both 2010 and 2011.
"Our tax system is so full of loopholes that the biggest companies can get away with paying nothing or receiving huge refunds," Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report, told Common Dreams. "With the windfall profits these companies reward the CEOs who managed to bring tax bills down with even larger paychecks."
Zooming in on the 30 biggest corporations in the United States, seven of them paid their CEOs—at an average of 17.3 million a person—more than they shelled out in taxes in 2013. Altogether, these seven companies reported over $74 billion in profits, before taxes. The companies' collective refund from the IRS was $1.9 billion, giving them an "effective tax rate" of negative 2.5 percent, the report states.
Meanwhile, when the pay of the 29 aforementioned CEOs is averaged, it comes to $32 million a person.
"Our tax system is so full of loopholes that the biggest companies can get away with paying nothing or receiving huge refunds."
—Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies
Who are these companies? Citigroup, which six years ago received more in public bailout dollars than any other bank (which the study puts at nearly half a trillion dollars), is among them. Last year, the company reported over $6 billion in profits yet received a $260 million tax refund from the IRS. CEO Michael Corbat brought in $17.6 million in pay in 2013.
"Citigroup wouldn't even exist without taxpayer support, and now that they are profitable they are still not paying their fair share," said Anderson.
Boeing brought in over $20 billion in federal contracts last year and reported almost $6 billion in profits. They received $82 million in tax refunds from the government. CEO James McNerney, meanwhile, brought in $23 million in compensation in 2013.
The authors of the report cite "deep flaws in our corporate tax system," including tax havens, "wasteful corporate subsidies," and loopholes that encourage "excessive executive compensation."
Some companies named in the report released statements Tuesday defending their records, including Citigroup, whose spokesperson said the institution "strictly abides by all tax laws in the United States and throughout the world."
Anderson said the corporate responses are "trying to distract attention" from the content of the report. "We aren't claiming they are doing anything illegal," she said. "The problem is that it should be a crime to get away without paying taxes, but it's not. We want to fix that."