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We Should Buy From the Companies That Pay Taxes

A study of federal corporate income tax payments over five years revealed a lot about the tax avoidance skills of some of our favorite companies. Very few Fortune 500 firms came close to the maximum statutory rate of 35%. Some paid nothing at all.

The American consumer loves its soft drinks, computers, cell phones, and bank accounts. The next time you buy a can of pop be aware that Coca Cola paid a smaller percentage in federal income taxes (6.5%) than Pepsi (13.6%). In the tech industry, Hewlett-Packard (2.9%) and IBM (3.3%) both paid much less than the industry average of about 20%. While Bank of America has received most of the attention for tax avoidance, it seems more respectable next to Citigroup, which had revenues of almost $400 billion but claimed an overall 5-year loss and received a $5 billion refund.

How about the all-important industry that provides our cell phones? Of the two biggest telecommunications companies, Verizon lagged way behind, paying federal taxes at a 9% rate, compared to AT&T's 22%.

Getting gouged at the pump? Don't buy from Exxon or Chevron, which paid 3.6% and 5.6%, respectively.


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In many industries companies tended to be lumped together in federal tax payment percentages, as if adapting to similar accounting protocols. Most retail stores paid between 24-32%. Tech firm came in a little lower, at 16-25%. Most food processing and fast food companies paid between 10-20%.

Any good news? The little guy in cell phones, US Cellular, paid almost 35% in federal taxes. Dr. Pepper's 31% rate far surpassed Coke and Pepsi. And enjoy your coffee at Starbucks, which paid 33%.

Detailed results for the study can be found at

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

screen_shot_2017-01-23_at_8.39.57_am.pngPaul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

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