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Big numbers and even bigger takers and losers

Startling stats from the Institute of Public Studies (IPS):

CEOs continue to take home more than their companies pay Uncle Sam in taxes
  • Of last year’s 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 26 took home more in CEO pay than their companies paid in federal income taxes, up from the 25 we noted in last year’s analysis. Seven firms made the list in both 2011 and 2010.
  • Once again, low corporate tax bills—or large refunds1—cannot be explained by low profits. On average, the 26 firms had more than $1 billion in U.S. pre-tax income but still received net tax benefits that averaged $163 million.
  • The CEOs of these 26 firms received $20.4 million in average total compensation last year. That's a 23 percent increase over the average for last year’s list of 2010's tax dodging executives.
  • Two of the firms that paid their CEOs more than Uncle Sam—Citigroup and AIG—owe their very continued existence to taxpayer bailouts.
  • Combined, the 26 firms have 537 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and Gibraltar. 

    Executives are gaining big-time from tax loopholes that encourage and reward excessive pay
  • The four most direct tax subsidies for excessive executive pay cost taxpayers an estimated $14.4 billion per year—$46 for every American man, woman, and child. That amount could also cover the annual cost of hiring 211,732 elementary-school teachers or creating 241,593 clean-energy jobs.
  • The tax code currently places no real limit on how much “performance-based” compensation corporations can deduct from their taxes. The top five 2011 beneficiaries of this loophole had a combined $232 million in deductible “performance-based” pay. Absent this loophole, the tax bills for these companies would have jumped $81 million, or an average of more than $16 million per CEO.
  • The tax code also allows corporations to defer unlimited sums of CEO compensation. The top five executive beneficiaries of this loophole in 2011 deferred $48 million in compensation. Without this loophole, their combined personal tax bills would have been $17 million higher.
  • Four years after the crash, the billionaire hedge fund managers at Wall Street’s pinnacle still pay taxes at lower rates than their secretaries, thanks to the preferential treatment of “carried interest” income.
  • The top five corporate beneficiaries of the stock option accounting loophole, which allows corporations to show one set of books to shareholders and another to the IRS, reduced their federal and state tax bills in 2010 by almost $683 million.

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