How Big Are Large Companies' Tax Returns?

Large companies' tax returns are often extremely big. For example, the 2010 tax return for General Electric (GE) was about 57,000 pages long and would have been about 19 feet (6 m) high if it was printed and stacked. Large companies, however, often gain so much in tax credits that little tax is actually paid. For instance, GE made $5 billion US Dollars (USD) in 2010 but ended up claiming a tax benefit of $3.2 billion USD. GE isn't the only large company to use legal methods to reduce or even come out ahead on its taxes. Exxon Mobile received a $156 million USD tax rebate and paid no federal income taxes on its $19 billion USD profit in 2009, and Goldman Sachs and Carnival Cruise lines both paid about 1.1 percent of their income for federal income tax in 2008.

More facts about income taxes:

  • Even when a company pays no tax or gets a large tax rebate on paper, some money still might change hands. Companies sometimes get tax credits that they defer for use in future years, so they still might pay some taxes in a particular year.

  • Economists estimate that corporations avoid paying $28 billion USD and $60 billion USD a year in federal income taxes by using legal loopholes and tax shelters.

  • The United States federal income tax rate for corporations is 35 percent. From 2007 to 2009, Pfizer paid about 17 percent per year, and GE paid about 3.6 percent per year.

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