“Offshore Shell Games 2015”

Published on 
10/07/2015

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to the tax code. Rather than paying their fair share, many multinational corporations use accounting tricks to pretend for tax purposes that a substantial portion of their profits are generated in offshore tax havens, countries with minimal or no taxes where a company’s presence may be as little as a mailbox. Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year.

The new report Offshore Shell Games 2015, produced by Citizens for Tax Justice (USA), examines the use of tax havens by Fortune 500 companies in 2014. It reveals that tax haven use is ubiquitous among America’s largest companies and that a narrow set of companies benefits disproportionately.

Most of America’s largest corporations maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014.

-All told, these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.

-The 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 1,225 tax haven subsidiaries.

Approximately 60 percent of companies with tax haven subsidiaries have set up at least one in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands — two particularly notorious tax havens. Furthermore, the profits that all American multinationals — not just Fortune 500 companies — collectively claimed they earned in these two island nations in 2010 totaled 1,643 percent and 1,600 percent of each country’s entire yearly economic output, respectively.

Fortune 500 companies are holding more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes. Just 30 Fortune 500 companies account for 65 percent of these offshore profits. These 30 companies with the most money offshore have booked $1.4 trillion overseas for tax purposes.

You can download the full report here.

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