If you needed another reason to hate the Walmart heirs, here it is.
The Forbes top 400 richest Americans list includes four of the Walton family — heirs to the Walmart fortune. They rank in the 6th, 7th, and 8th places (two tied for 8th place) and have a collective $145 billion dollars in wealth. They also are criticized for paying their 2.4 million workers worldwide poverty wages that result in subsidization through welfare for their United States employees.
They are also America’s greediest billionaires, according to a recent analysis by Walmart 1 Percent. They have each contributed less than 0.05 percent of their personal net worth through the years 2008 and 2013.
The analysis by Walmart 1 Percent finds that between 2008 and 2013:
Rob Walton, tied for 8th richest American, contributed approximately 0.00003 percent of his net worth;
Jim Walton, the 7th richest American, contributed about 0.00004 percent of his net worth;
Alice Walton, tied for 8th richest American, contributed about 0.01 percent of her net worth; and
Christy Walton, the 6th richest American, contributed approximately 0.04 percent of her net worth, or about $15 million.
“I’ve worked at the Walmart store in Phoenix, Arizona, for eight years, and have done my part to help Walmart achieve more than $16 billion in annual profits,” said Walmart worker Sandra Sok in a press release. “Rob Walton lives about 25 miles away and knows what it takes to make ends meet in our state – and it’s impossible with Walmart’s poverty pay. The Walton family is showing once again that its own greed trumps the needs of American workers and society.”
In comparison, the Waltons’ peers in Forbes top 10 ranking have contributed far more generously. Over the same period, Warren Buffet contributed $8.4 billion to nonprofit organizations – 477 times more than the Waltons. David and Charles Koch gave 12 and 11 times more than the four Waltons combined, respectively.
A report by Walmart 1 Percent released earlier this year found that the Waltons have contributed almost none of their own wealth to the Walton Family Foundation and use the Foundation to avoid an estimated $3 billion in estate taxes. Based on an analysis of 23 tax returns filed by the Foundation, the report showed that if the Foundation is their primary vehicle for giving, the Waltons give much less generously than their billionaire peers and ordinary Americans.
From her new solo CD, “Muna,” here is Marketa Irglova. She was half of the duo, “The Swell Season” with Glen Hansard. She co-starred in the independent film, “Once” along with Hansard, and performed on the sound track for the movie, which was Academy Award nominated, and the film won an Audience Choice Award for a drama at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.
According to the SEC documents, Microsoft is sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore. That amount of money represents a significant spike from prior years.
To put this in perspective, the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.
The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers, although often legal, threaten to significantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.
Microsoft has not formally declared itself a subsidiary of a foreign company, so the firm has not technically engaged in the so-called “inversion” scheme that President Obama and Democrats have lately been criticizing. However, according to a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation, the company has in recent years used its offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills.
That probe uncovered details of how those subsidiaries are used. In its report, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations noted that “despite the [company's] research largely occurring in the United States and generating U.S. tax credits, profit rights to the intellectual property are largely located in foreign tax havens.” The report discovered that through those tax havens, “Microsoft was able to shift offshore nearly $21 billion in a 3-year period, or almost half of its U.S. retail sales net revenue, saving up to $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the United States, or just over $4 million in U.S. taxes each day.”
Microsoft, of course, is not alone. According to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice, “American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of ‘permanently reinvested’ profits offshore.” The report also found that “28 corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.”
In the political debate over taxes, conservatives often cite inversions and other games with offshore subsidiaries as proof that the U.S. corporate tax rate is too high in comparison to other industrialized countries. Yet, when all the existing tax deductions, write-offs and credits are factored in, America’s effective corporate tax rate is actually one of the industrialized world’s lowest.
With the U.S. tax code now permitting companies to use brazen tax avoidance schemes in true tax havens, the real question is more fundamental than what the proper corporate tax rate should be. Instead, the question is now whether corporations should have to pay any taxes on their profits at all.
The answer should be obvious. Companies enjoy huge benefits from operating in the United States. Benefits like, among other things, intellectual property protection, government provided security, police, firefighting, etc., and publicly financed infrastructure like municipal water, sewer, roads, etc. Those services and assets cost money. Money that everyday tax payers must pay more for if corporations are not shouldering their fair share.
If the tax tricks employed by companies like Microsoft become the rationale to eliminate corporate taxes entirely, then America would allow companies to be exempt from paying their fair share of those costs. That would be a truly endless and unacceptable bailout. One given to executives and shareholders and paid for by the rest of us.