WASHINGTON — More than half of the nation's 250 leading corporations, worth more than $70 billion in profits and led by AT&T, paid no taxes or got refunds at least once between 1981 and 1985, a citizens group charged today.
Releasing its third annual survey of America's "corporate freeloaders," Citizens for Tax Justice said, "Out of 250 corporations surveyed in this report, 130 . . . were able to pay absolutely nothing in federal income taxes or receive outright tax rebates in at least one of the five years from 1981 through 1985."
At the top of the list, the group said, was AT&T.
"The leader at making money off the tax system over the past four years has been none other than the company with the largest domestic profits: AT&T," the report said.
With reported profits of almost $25 billion between 1982 and 1985, the group charged, "AT&T paid not one penny in federal income taxes" and received $636 million in federal refunds.
Study Called 'Flawed'
An AT&T spokesman called the study "flawed" and said, "With the exception of one very unusual year, AT&T has been a substantial federal income taxpayer," paying $750 million in taxes.
The survey said the 130 companies earned $72.9 billion in pretax domestic profits in the years they did not pay federal income taxes.
"But instead of paying $33.5 billion in income taxes, as the 46% statutory corporate rate purports to require, they received $6.1 billion in tax rebates--for a negative tax rate of minus 8.3%."
Citizens for Tax Justice, a private research and lobby group supporting tax reform, said the corporations avoided taxes either by using tax breaks "tailored specifically for them" or through accelerated depreciation and the investment tax credit.
The report said other companies with more than $50 million in net tax refunds from 1982 to 1985 were: DuPont, $179 million in refunds; Boeing, $121 million; General Dynamics, $91 million; Pepsico, $89 million; General Mills, $79 million; Transamerica Corp., $73 million; Texaco, $68 million; International Paper, $60 million, and Greyhound and IC Industries, $54 million each.
"Altogether, this 'top 10' list of corporate freeloaders earned $39.7 billion before federal income taxes and another $1.5 billion after tax," the report said.
"For the vast majority of American families who pay their federal income taxes year in and year out, the idea of a no-tax year is almost inconceivable," said Robert McIntyre, a director of the group.
"But, for most of America's largest corporations, no-tax years are now commonplace."
The study found that 73 of the 130 companies had at least two years free from taxes or got refunds, and 27 paid nothing or or got refunds in three or more years.
Forty-two companies out of the 250 surveyed paid nothing or got refunds over the entire four-year period from 1982 to 1985, the report said, adding, "Despite $59.1 billion in pretax domestic profits between 1982 and 1985, these 42 companies received net tax rebates totaling $2.1 billion."