Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A demonstrator holding a "People Over Profit" sign at a protest in Brooklyn on June 5, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Oxfam America Calls for Tax on 'Pandemic Profiteers' to Fund Covid-19 Recovery and the Common Good

"Taxing excess profits during a crisis is an old idea whose time has come again."

Julia Conley

The U.S. government could easily ensure that all Americans and the global community benefit from the profits that many wealthy U.S. companies have raked in during the coronavirus pandemic, Oxfam America said in a report released Wednesday as the group called for the country to implement a Pandemic Profits Tax, similar to one used during World War II.

In its report, "Pandemic Profiteers Exposed," Oxfam revealed that 17 of the nation's 25 most profitable companies—including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Facebook—are expected to make nearly $85 billion more in 2020 than they did in previous years.

The profits are flowing in as the U.S. faces Great Depression-level unemployment, millions of Americans have reported being unable to pay their rent and mortgage payments in recent months, and cities across the country face coronavirus testing shortages, severely weakening the nation's ability to track and contain the spread of Covid-19. 

"When such dramatic and excessive profits are made during a time of global crisis and distributed to the wealthiest, the situation is not just fundamentally unjust, it is also economically inefficient."
—Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America

But while Microsoft, which is poised to see its profits grow more than any other U.S. company in 2020, is among the corporations that have claimed "We're all in this together" during the pandemic, the vast majority of the tech giant's profits this year are expected to go to its shareholders, a majority of whom are white, male, and already wealthy, according to Oxfam. 

The group found that among the 25 most profitable U.S. companies, 99% of net profits will be distributed to shareholders this year rather than going to efforts to protect workers during the historic economic downturn. 

"Amid the deepest public health and economic crisis since World War II, this is hardly a shared sacrifice from the nation's preeminent business elite," Oxfam's report reads. 

To correct this, the group said, the federal government must reintroduce an excess profits tax—the same tax which was used during World War II and similar to one implemented by 22 countries during World War I "to tax the portion of profits that derive not from hard work, but from an external event the taxpayer had no hand in making."

The Pandemic Profits Tax would apply only to companies with $500 million or more in annual gross receipts; small companies, which have reported their earnings have been cut in half in the first quarter of 2020 and which are expected to lose 85% in profits in the second quarter, would be exempt.

"When such dramatic and excessive profits are made during a time of global crisis and distributed to the wealthiest, the situation is not just fundamentally unjust, it is also economically inefficient," said Niko Lusiani, senior advisor on corporate advocacy at Oxfam America, and lead author of the report. "Corporations like Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, Pfizer, and Visa, flush with billions in pandemic profits and disproportionately benefitting from taxpayer-funded economic relief, now have the opportunity to gobble up smaller companies and deepen their market power at the expense of true competition. Taxing these windfall profits is a fair, time-tested way to rebuild better."

With its report, Oxfam joined economists and political observers who have called for the use of an excess profits tax for the duration of the pandemic since the crisis began.

According to Oxfam, the Pandemic Profits Tax could raise $80 billion just by taxing the most profitable U.S. companies—and would raise far more if the tax was implemented across all large U.S. corporations. 

The group reported that the revenue could immediately fund ongoing coronavirus testing needs across the globe, as well as research and development, manufacturing, and delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet.

"Taxing excess profits during a crisis is an old idea whose time has come again," said Irit Tamir, director of the private sector department at Oxfam America. "Repurposing a tool used during WWII could raise almost $80 billion from just 17 super-profitable corporations, which could be reinvested in fighting Covid-19 and its economic toll."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Top 10 US Billionaires Got $1 Billion Richer Every Day of Pandemic

"Each made about the same in a single minute as the average American household earns in an entire year. This can't continue," said Americans for Tax Fairness.

Jake Johnson ·

14-Year-Old Indigenous Land Defender Killed in Colombia

"We condemn the killing of Breiner David Cucuñame!" says Fridays for Future MAPA. "We join the calls for justice and stand in solidarity with the environmental defenders in Colombia and across the world!"

Jessica Corbett ·

Lyft Donates $14 Million to Keep Massachusetts Drivers Down

The largest one-time political donation in state history goes to a coalition fighting to stop ride-hailing and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees.

Brett Wilkins ·

Catching Up With Progressives, Biden to Provide N95s Nationwide

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who introduced the Masks for All Act in July 2020, called the move "a good first step."

Julia Conley ·

Bank Blocks Donations Supporting Cuban Effort to Vaccinate World

"A European bank, established in the Netherlands, has decided to put the interests of the U.S. government above the lives of millions of people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo