GAO: 83% of big U.S companies, contractors use offshore tax havens

Citigroup – which has received $25 billion from the bailout fund, plus $300 billion in government guarantees – has set up 427 tax haven subsidiaries to do business: 91 in Luxembourg, 90 in the Cayman Islands and 35 in the British Virgin Islands. Other havens include Switzerland, Hong Kong, Panama and Mauritius.”



The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just issued a report showing that most of the nation’s largest public companies and government contractors rely on offshore subsidiaries to do business and cut their tax bills. Some of these same firms – including big banks and insurers – have already received tens of billions in taxpayer money from the federal bailout fund.

Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, American International Group, American Express have set up hundreds of tax-haven subsidiaries, the report states. All have taken billions from the bailout fund. Pepsi and Caterpillar, both of which have received billions in tax dollars from being major government contractors, also shelter revenue in offshore subsidiaries, The Washington Post says.

There’s a big “but,” however: It’s legal under the U.S. tax code.

Also, as the Post notes, GAO auditors did not review the companies’ transactions to independently verify that the subsidiaries helped the companies reduce their tax burden. The GAO said only that the companies had subsidiaries located in jurisdictions considered tax havens and that historically the purpose of those subsidiaries is to cut tax costs.

Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), who requested the report, said they hope to persuade President-elect Obama to make such shelters illegal. They estimate the U.S. Treasury loses $100 billion each year.

Here’s the GAO’s summary and the full report (pdf).

Searching the Securities and Exchange Commission’s public database, the Post says, the GAO found that 83 of the 100 largest publicly traded corporations and 63 of the 100 largest federal contractors maintain subsidiaries in countries generally considered havens for avoiding taxes.

Citigroup – which has received $25 billion from the bailout fund, plus $300 billion in government guarantees – has set up 427 tax haven subsidiaries to do business: 91 in Luxembourg, 90 in the Cayman Islands and 35 in the British Virgin Islands. Other havens include Switzerland, Hong Kong, Panama and Mauritius.

“This report shows that some of our country’s largest companies and federal contractors, many of which are household names, continue to use offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the U.S. And, some of those companies have even received emergency economic funds from the government,” Dorgan said. “I think we should take action to shut down these tax dodgers, and we will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

Posted by Michael Winter
January 16, 2009

Source: USA Today

Leave a Comment