More than 60 percent of U.S. corporations paid no taxes in 1996-2000As Americans prepare to pay their income taxes on Thursday, they should pause to remember that many corporations pay no taxes. The Wall Street Journal reported last Tuesday that, "More than 60 percent of U.S. corporations didn't pay any federal taxes for 1996 through 2000, years when the economy boomed and corporate profits soared...." That information was produced by the General Accounting Office.
The WSJ is the business community's newspaper. Thus it is striking when the Journal offers an unvarnished, bald observation on its front page. Reporter John D. McKinnon wrote: "More so than similar previous reports, the analysis suggests that dodging taxes, both legally and otherwise, has become deeply rooted in U.S. corporate culture."
The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has offered a proposal that would close loopholes on U.S. corporations with operations abroad. The WSJ article noted that many foreign-owned companies doing business in the U.S. "about 70 percent of them" paid no U.S. federal taxes during the late 1990s.
The basic concept behind federal taxation is simple. If we live or do business in America, we ought to share the burden of paying for the benefits we enjoy.
The tax-dodging that is embedded in contemporary business culture is part of the lawlessness that seems to pervade boardrooms and the tier of top management these days. The pages of the staid WSJ over the past few years have read like supermarket tabloids. The New York Times reported April 4 that management altering of hourly time cards "is far more prevalent than most Americans believe." With every high visibility executive on trial, from Enron to Tyco, we are exposed to the rampant greed that propelled massive, illegal activities, which have left employees and stockholders poorer.
We deserve better from our business leaders. And we certainly deserve that they pay their fair share of this nation's expenses.