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American Businesses: Success Is Because Of Government, Not In Spite Of It

While big business whimpers about high statutory tax rates, the effective tax rate paid by most corporations in America is often far lower than most other developed nations (thanks to loopholes and accounting tricks). Meanwhile, corporate tax receipts accounted for 30 percent of US federal revenues in the mid-1950s. In 2009, they made up just 6.6 percent of federal revenue streams.

In other words, not only are big corporations funding a smaller percentage of our shared social safety net, they’re paying a smaller percentage into funding the future infrastructure that they desperately need.

Imagine if big business got its way and corporate taxes were slashed even further. How would businesses suffer?

What would Oprah and Henry Ford have done?

Imagine if, when Henry Ford wanted to start the Ford Motor Company, he had to not only drill for oil himself but also oversee the laying of pipelines and production infrastructure across government-owned land so his cars could have gas to make them go. And when the American auto industry was expanding in the 1940s and 50s creating jobs throughout the nation, imagine if Chrysler and General Motors had to not only build their own factories and assembly lines but actually plan and construct the roads and interstate highways for cars to drive on.

Imagine if Oprah had to regulate the television spectrum for herself and that at random, bandwidth pirates could intrude on broadcasts of the Oprah Winfrey Show because there was no Federal Communications Commission monitoring ownership of and access to the public airwaves.

Imagine if every restaurateur today had to invest in his or her own food safety teams to make sure the meat served isn’t toxic. Imagine if every small business in remote rural communities had to generate its own electricity on site because the government wouldn’t have helped fund the expansion of power lines to those distant places. Imagine if every corporation had to educate its entire workforce from childhood to adulthood because there were no public schools.

Bill Gates would have had to run phone lines.

What if, when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he couldn’t get a patent from the United States government to protect his idea? Or for that matter, if there had been no laws to protect private property and no law enforcement, Bell might have had to sit up all night with a gun guarding his invention – instead of going out in the world and figuring out how to use it. When Bill Gates wanted to start Microsoft, consider if instead of drawing on the government-created infrastructure of the original Internet (which he accessed early on in high school through the publicly funded University of Washington), Mr. Gates not only had to invent Windows, but also invent the entire World Wide Web and run the wiring for the phone lines that originally connected all his potential consumers.

When Warren Buffet launched his investing career that ultimately earned him billions, imagine if in addition to hiring lawyers to run his business, Mr. Buffett had to hire judges, too, and create entire court systems to oversee and enforce the types of binding contracts on which the stock market relies. For that matter, imagine if Buffet had to print his own currency and negotiate its value against the currencies of all other individual investors.e infrastructure of private sector success

Taxes fund the infrastructure of private sector success

Businesses in the United States don’t succeed in spite of our government, in many ways, they succeed because of our government. Through our taxes, we fund the legal and economic infrastructure of private sector success. By definition, those businesses that get the most out of that infrastructure are those that should give the most back.

At a time when economic conservatives want to slash spending that helps the poor and middle class rather than raise the already-low effective taxes of big business, it’s shameful that corporations like General Electric and Bank of America effectively pay no taxes. In the context of the larger American story, where successful businesses of today support the public infrastructure for the businesses of tomorrow, saying that corporations should pay even less is downright un-American.

By: Sally Kohn, AlterNet, July 22, 2011

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Bank Of America, Big Business, Budget, Businesses, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, General Electric, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget The Rich: Tax The Poor And Middle Class

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, it used to be said, but in the madcap times we live in, even they’re up for grabs.

No matter what proof the White House provides that Osama bin Laden indeed has had his bucket kicked — and at this point even al Qaeda admits he’s dead — there still will be uncertainty. Whether they ever release those damned photos or not, a lunatic few will continue to insist that Osama’s alive and well and running a Papa John’s Pizza in Marrakesh.

As for taxes, having to pay them is no longer a sure thing either, especially if you’re a corporate giant like General Electric, with a thousand employees in its tax department, skilled in creative accounting. You’ll recall recent reports that although GE made profits last year of $5.1 billion in the United States and $14.2 billion worldwide they would pay not a penny of federal income tax. Chalk it up to billions of dollars of losses at GE Capital during the financial meltdown and a government tax break that allows companies to avoid paying US taxes on profits made overseas while “actively financing” different kinds of deals.

It gets worse. In 2009, Exxon-Mobil didn’t pay any taxes either, and last year, they had worldwide profits of $30.46 billion. Neither did Bank of America or Chevron or Boeing. According to a report last week from the office of the New York City Public Advocate, in 2009, the five companies, including GE, received a total of $3.7 billion in federal tax benefits.

As The New York Times‘ David Kocieniewski reported in March, “Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less… Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.”

What’s greasing the wheels for these advantages is, hold on to your hats, cash. Over the last decade, according to the NYC public advocate’s report, those same five companies — GE, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron and Boeing — gave more than $43.1 million to political campaigns. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, the five spent a combined $7.86 million in campaign contributions, a 7 percent jump over their 2007-2008 political spending.

“These tax breaks were put in place to promote growth and create jobs, not bankroll the political causes of corporate executives,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “… No company that can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence our elections should be pleading poverty come tax time.”

And by the way, those campaign cash figures don’t even include all the money those companies funneled into the 2010 campaigns via trade associations and tax-exempt non-profits. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, we don’t know the numbers because, as per the court, the corporate biggies don’t have to tell us. Imagine them sticking out their tongues and wiggling their fingers in their ears and you have a pretty good idea of their official position on this.

Meanwhile, last week Republicans like Utah’s Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the US Senate Finance Committee, grabbed hold of an analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and wrestled it to the ground. The brief memorandum reported that in the 2009 tax year 51 percent of all American taxpayers had zero tax liability or received a refund. So why, the Republicans asked, are Democrats and others so mean, asking corporations and the rich to pay higher taxes when lots of other people — especially the poor and middle class — don’t pay taxes either?

Hatch told MSNBC, “Bastiat, the great economist of the past, said the place where you’ve got to get revenues has to come from the middle class. That’s the huge number of people that are there. So the system does need to be revamped… We have an unbalanced tax code that we’ve got to change.”

All of which flies in the face of reality. As Travis Waldron of the progressive ThinkProgress website explained, “The majority of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes don’t make enough money to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket, a problem made worse by the economic recession. That includes retired Americans, who don’t pay income taxes because they earn very little income, if they earn any at all.

“And while many low-income Americans don’t pay income taxes, they do pay taxes. Because of payroll and sales taxes — a large proportion of which are paid by low- and middle-income Americans — less than a quarter of the nation’s households don’t contribute to federal tax receipts — and the majority of the non-contributors are students, the elderly, or the unemployed.”

What’s more, ThinkProgress notes, “The top 400 taxpayers — who have more wealth than half of all Americans combined — are paying lower taxes than they have in a generation, as their tax responsibilities have slowly collapsed since the New Deal era.”  In the meantime, “working families have been asked to pay more and more.”

So maybe death and taxes are no longer certain, but one thing remains as immutable as the hills. In the words of another golden oldie, there’s nothing surer — the rich get rich and the poor get poorer.

By: Michael Winship, CommonDreams.org, May 10, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democrats, Economy, Elections, General Electric, GOP, Government, Income Gap, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Tax Credits, Tax Increases, Tax Liabilities, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Don’t Have A Spending Problem, We Have A Fraud Problem

Conservatives seem to have a knack for changing the subject whenever their backs are up against the wall. Over the last several weeks, there has been an orchestrated chorus  by the House Republicans in particular to define the so-called “deficit problem” in terms of a wild spending binge by the federal government and the Obama administration. They seem to have easily forgotten who got us into this mess in the first place. That aside, everyone from Speaker John Boehner to Sen Mitch McConnell have been bellowing throughout the halls of Congress and at every available microphone that “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem”.

It’s amazing how we all have bought into this line. The media, in its usual rush to get a headline or sound bite, immediately picked up this line and has been the waterboys for the GOP by enabling this hoax on the American people. The focus in most circles has been on spending cuts. Well, we need to re-characterize what is actually going on here. We don’t have a spending problem..we have a fraud problem.

This fraud has been played on the American people by an ideologically depraved Republican party for at least the last ten years. They have made everybody believe that if we just make the wealthy wealthier, somewhere down the road, we will all benefit. There would be job creation with full employment, small businesses would thrive, home prices would fall, gas would cost less than two dollars a gallon and there would be a chicken in every pot. And we believed it hook, line and sinker. Now we are back to square one. None of these things have happened except the fact that we have indeed made the wealthy wealthier. In 2010,  the 400 Americans with the highest adjusted gross revenue incomes averaged $345 million. The average federal income tax was 17%, down from 26% in 1992. The income gap just keeps getting wider. Why  does this continue to happen? Because we let it happen.

Just last week, Standard and Poor’s accentuated the Republican clarion that the sky is falling. This call comes from the same S&P who supported every toxic waste subprime security under the sky, the same S&P  who sold its ratings to the highest bidder. Regulators have also assisted the GOP in their fraud. The Office of the Currency has gone out of its way to protect its clients, ie the banks. Efforts to reign in the banks and stop their predatory loan practices have been foiled at every turn. Even the banks are too big to fail. Profits for banks, corporations, CEO’s, Wall St and the wealthy just keep soaring. There is a lot of back scratching going on here, by and for a lot of wealthy people.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, all of these wealthy people are trying to figure out a way to take the spot light off themselves. They are beginning to see that they may not be able to stave off demands any longer that they pay their fare share. People who have been adversely affected for so many years are now demanding that this fraud be stopped. Teachers and other low wage earners, the poor, seniors, students and union members have all come to believe that they have sacrificed enough. Even some tea party members are beginning to see the light.

For too many years, the Republicans and their wealthy friends have had their hands in everybody’s pockets. Your pocket was the revenue stream for them. General Electric and the Koch Brothers were probably happier than anyone. The Republicans were also happy because their happy friends provided the cover that allows them to do whatever they want to in terms of policy. Being the ideologues that they are, this protection gives them unimpeded opportunity to push forward with their agenda, from dissolving women’s rights, overturning the Affordable Care Act, union busting, replacing Medicare with vouchers and completely eliminating any sense of environmental protection just to name a few. With happy and contented wealthy backers behind you for so many years, how could you go wrong. My, how things are changing.

The revenue stream that the Republicans have depended on for so long is now drying up…that stream is you. They are finding that when they put their hands in your pockets now, they are feeling the seam of the sewn pocket. There just isn’t any more money there. They become flushed and filled with extreme panic, finally realizing that they are going to have their taxes raised after all these years. Their backs are against the wall. So what do they do now? Change the debate..”Let’s raise taxes on everybody”. Nice try!

It’s well past time that shared sacrifice mean exactly what it says. It is no longer acceptable that the poor, under privileged, seniors and the disenfranchised continue to carry the load for corporations, Wall St and their deadbeat tax-evading friends. No, let’s not raise taxes on everybody. Let’s end the fraud and insist that the wealthy start paying taxes just like everyone else. This being Easter Sunday, this may be a good symbolic time to increase taxes only for the rich. We should leave that rate in place for oh say, the next 40 years. Besides, they have accumulated a fair amount of wealth over the years and should easily be able to live off that profit during that time. Perhaps take a trip or two or just wander around the world enjoying their spoils. We will pledge to re-visit this issue after that time. If, and only if,  the middle class has reached a level playing field, then we can talk about lowering the tax rate for the wealthy. I think Moses and the Pharaoh’s would be happy with this compromise.  So it is written, so let it be done.

By: raemd95, mykeystrokes.com, April 24, 2011

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Banks, Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Deficits, Democracy, Economy, Equal Rights, Federal Budget, Foreclosures, General Electric, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Journalists, Koch Brothers, Labor, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public, Pundits, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Standard and Poor's, Tax Increases, Taxes, Tea Party, Unemployed, Unions, Wall Street, Wealthy, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Narrow And Wrong Headed Economic Debate

There’s a janitor who lives in a studio apartment just outside of Stevens Point, Wis. He cleans the math and science buildings at a state university, a job he’s been doing for about 18 months, after a year of unemployment. He’s 43 and last year made $24,622. He doesn’t have kids, so he doesn’t qualify for a child-care tax credit. He doesn’t own a home or a hybrid car — those credits don’t apply to him, either. He hasn’t been enrolled in school since the 10th grade, so he definitely doesn’t qualify for any education credits or deductions. He just learned that Gov. Scott Walker’s new budget has slashed his benefits and that next year he’ll be bringing in about 16 percent less per month. And when he sits down to do his taxes next week, he’ll find that he paid the federal government around $1,400 in 2010.

 About a thousand miles to the east, in Fairfield, Conn., General Electric, one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, posted a $14.2 billion profit for 2010. When its accountants were finished working their magic, the company didn’t owe a single dollar in federal taxes.

“People can think what they think,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chief executive, in response to a growing anger to this story, first reported last week by the New York Times. What else is there to think, one wonders, but that with the muscle and money of lobbyists and lawyers, with the access and influence built over generations, GE has done not just the audacious but the outrageous. And it is not alone.

Exxon Mobil, for example, made $19 billion in profits in 2009 but paid no federal income taxes. In fact, it received a $156 million rebate from the IRS. Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, even though it made $4.4 billion in profits and was handed a nearly $1 trillion bailout by taxpayers. The list, inconceivably, goes on.

And yet the conversation in Washington hasn’t turned to aggressively closing the loopholes that GE’s lobbyists created for its accountants to exploit. It hasn’t turned toward ending the ridiculous tax breaks on corporate dividends and capital gains that allow hedge fund managers and the very wealthy to pay the government a lower percentage than their middle-class employees. Instead, Congress is debating whether $33 billion in cuts to the social safety net is enough to make the Tea Party happy.

While Republicans in the House have stopped talking nearly altogether about jobs (and have embraced a budget that could cost the economy 700,000 of them, according to Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi), the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, someone charged with finding a way to sustained job growth, is none other than Jeff Immelt himself, tax evader in chief. This is a systemic problem that neither belongs to nor can be solved by a single man. But for Immelt to keep his post with the administration now would be bad politics, bad policy and bad messaging. Yet as I write this, it doesn’t look as if he will be asked to step down.

Still, I am hopeful.

I am hopeful because an incredible spirit and energy has been unleashed. It was first shown during the Wisconsin labor battle, and it is being sustained and nurtured, and broadened to communities across the country. People are showing that they will not abide a system that finances corporate greed on the backs of the poor and middle class.

On Monday, the nation commemorated the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed in Memphis, where he had gone to fight for the rights of sanitation workers. Thousands gathered across America for a national day of action supporting public employees, other working people and trade unions in a common quest for jobs, justice and decency for all citizens. They participated in teach-ins, protests, demonstrations and vigils, all with a simple and deeply American message: It is time for the richest, most privileged among us to pay their fair share.

They spoke of the widening gulf in American politics, between the powerful and the powerless, between those who most need the government’s assistance and those most likely, instead, to receive it. They are not alone. For all the disappointment that progressives feel about this Congress, there are members who have been leaders and allies on Capitol Hill.

Consider Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Always the people’s champion, Sanders has called for closing corporate tax loopholes, which, if done, would raise more than $400 billion over a 10-year period. He’s also introduced legislation imposing a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would yield up to $50 billion more a year — more than enough to protect Pell Grants and Head Start and other programs facing the chopping block.

He is joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has introduced legislation to create a separate tax bracket for millionaires and billionaires — an option that garners the support of 81 percent of the American people, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The common sense, humane response at this moment is to fight to reset the terms of a suffocatingly narrow and wrongheaded debate. This is the heritage of the progressive movement and, indeed, our obligation. The best principles of our country have been trampled by corporate immorality and right-wing extremism. But they can be restored. Martin Luther King Jr. knew as much when he fought for the sanitation workers of Tennessee 43 years ago. Now, we must know it too.

By: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 5, 2011

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Corporations, Democracy, Economy, General Electric, Ideologues, Jobs, Labor, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Try This At Home But, How You Can Pull A General Electric On Taxes

There’s been a firestorm this week over the news that General Electric will pay no tax—at least, no federal corporate income tax—on last year’s profits.

But if you’re like a lot of people, your first reaction was probably: “Hmmm. How can I get that kind of deal?”

If General Electric pays close to zero in Federal Income taxes, can you? Brett Arends tells Kelsey Hubbard how even a “regular Joe” can lower their tax bill, especially if they are self-employed.

You’d be surprised. You might. And without being either a pauper or a major corporation.

I spoke to Gil Charney, principal tax researcher at H&R Block‘s Tax Institute, to see how a regular Joe could pull a GE. The verdict: It’s more feasible than you think—especially if you’re self-employed.

Let’s say you set up business as a consultant or a contractor, something a lot of people have been doing these days. And, to make this a challenge on the tax front, let’s say you do well and take in about $150,000 in your first year.

First off, says Mr. Charney, for 2010 you can write off up to $10,000 in start-up expenses. (In subsequent years it’s only $5,000.)

Okay, let’s say you claim $7,000. That takes your income down to $143,000.

You can also write off all legitimate business expenses. Mr. Charney emphasizes that this only applies to legitimate expenses.

He didn’t say, but everyone seems to understand, that this can be quite a flexible term. Even if you buy a computer, a cellphone and a car primarily for business use, you can use them for personal purposes as well. If you happen to take a business trip to Florida in, say, January, no one is going to stop you from enjoying the sunshine or taking a dip in the pool.

So let’s say you manage to write off another $10,000 a year in business expenses.

That brings your income, for tax purposes, down to $133,000.

You’ll have to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes (just like GE). Because you’re self-employed, you have to pay both sides: the employee and the employer. That will come to about $19,000.

However, you can deduct half of that, or $9,500, from your taxable income. So that brings your total down to $123,500 so far.

Now comes the creative bit. The self-employed have access to terrific tax breaks on their investment and retirement accounts. The best deal for many is going to be a self-employed 401(k), sometimes known as a Solo 401(k).

This will let you save $43,100 and write it off against your taxes. That money goes straight into a sheltered investment account, as with a regular 401(k).

Why $43,100? That’s because with a Solo 401(k), you’re both the employer and the employee. As the employee you get to contribute a maximum of $16,500, as with any regular 401(k). But as the employer you also get to lavish yourself with an incredibly generous company match of up to 20% of net income.

Yes, being the boss has its privileges. (And if you’re 50 or over, your limit as an employee is raised from $16,500 each to $22,000.)

You can save another $10,000 by also contributing to individual retirement accounts—$5,000 for you, $5,000 for your spouse. If you use a traditional IRA, rather than a Roth, that reduces your taxable income as well. If you’re 50 or over, the limit rises to $6,000 apiece.

If you contribute $43,100 to your Solo 401(k), and $10,000 to two IRAs, that brings your income for tax purposes down to just over $70,000.

We haven’t stopped there either, says Mr. Charney.

Now come the usual itemized deductions. You can write off your state and local taxes. Let’s say these come to $10,000.

You can write off interest on your mortgage. Call that another $10,000. That’s enough to pay 5% interest on a $200,000 home loan.

That gets us down to about $50,000 And we’re not done.

If you’re self-employed, health insurance is probably a big headache. But the news isn’t all bad. You can write off the premiums for yourself, your spouse, and your kids.

And if you use a qualifying high-deductible health insurance plan—there are a variety of rules to make sure a plan qualifies—you get another break. You can contribute $3,050 a year into a tax-sheltered Health Savings Account, or $6,150 for a family. You can write those contributions off against your taxable income. The investments grow sheltered from tax. And if you spend the money on qualifying health costs, the withdrawals are tax-free as well.

So call this $10,000 for the premiums and $6,150 for the HSA contributions. That gets your income, for tax purposes, all the way down to about $34,000.

If you have outstanding student loans, you can write off $2,500 in interest. And you can write off $4,000 of your kid’s college tuition and fees.

Then there’s a personal exemption: $3,650 per person. If you’re married with one child, that’s $10,950.

Taxable income: just under $17,000. That’s on a gross take of $150,000. You’d owe less than $1,700 in federal income tax.

And it doesn’t stop there. Because now you can bring in some of the tax credits. Unlike deductions, these come off your tax liability, dollar for dollar.

GE got big write-offs related to green energy. There are some for you too, although on a small scale. You can claim credits for things like installing solar panels, heat pumps or energy-efficient windows or boilers in your home. Let’s say you use a home equity loan to pay for the improvements and take the maximum $1,500 write-off.

That gets your tax liability down to $200.

Can we get rid of that? Sure, says Mr. Charney.

If your spouse spends, say, $1,000 on qualifying adult-education courses or training programs, you can claim $200, or 20% of the cost, in Lifetime Learning Credits. (The maximum is $2,000.)

That wipes out the remaining liability.

Congratulations. You’ve pulled a GE. You owe no federal income taxes at all.

OK, it’s just an illustration. Few will be quite so fortunate. On the other hand, it’s not comprehensive either. There are plenty of other deductions and credits we didn’t mention. You could have written off up to $3,000 by selling loss-making investments. Your spouse may be able to use a 401(k) deduction as well. There are lots of ways to tweak the numbers.

In this case, you’ve paid no federal income tax, and meanwhile you’ve saved $19,000 toward your retirement through Social Security and Medicare, and $53,000 through your 401(k) and IRAs. You’ve paid most of your accommodation costs (that is, the interest and property taxes on your home), covered your health-care costs and quite a lot of personal expenses through your business account, paid $4,000 toward your child’s college costs and had about $2,000 a month left over for cash costs.

Who says GE has all the fun?

By: Brett Arends, The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Corporations, General Electric, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Tax Credits, Tax Evasion, Tax Liabilities | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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