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Who isn’t paying taxes?

By STEPHANIE CARSON

NC News Service

Congressional hearings in the past few years made headlines exposing how Apple and Microsoft moved money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. But as a new report from Citizens for Tax Justice shows these name-brand companies aren’t alone.

Matt Gardner, executive director with the Institute on Taxation and Public Policy, says companies known to use offshore tax havens include Nike, Safeway, American Express, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and the pharmaceutical giant Amgen. He says the impact on the U.S. Treasury is significant.

“If these companies paid the U.S. taxes that they ought to be paying on this income, we’d be talking about $600 billion,” says Gardner.

At the end of 2014, 304 Fortune 500 companies collectively held more than $2 trillion in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and other tax havens – places that Gardner points out provide very little in the way of real business opportunities for American corporations such as Qualcomm, Safeway and Microsoft.

Gardner adds many corporations that fail to disclose whether their offshore holdings are tax havens are the same ones lobbying Congress to enact a temporary “tax holiday,” or a permanent exemption for offshore income. He says both proposals would only reward companies for shifting profits overseas, and predicts average Americans would end up footing the bill.

“When corporations don’t pay their fair share, the impact is the rest of us, middle-income families and small businesses, pay more to make up the difference,” he says.

The report recommends Congress act sooner than later to put a stop to offshore tax havens. Gardner says each of 77 companies in the survey increased their declared offshore cash by at least $500 million in the last year alone.