The truth behind Wal-Mart’s profits

Off-shore tax havens, discounted tax credits, and very low pay: the truth behind Wal-Mart's profits.

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We’re often talking about how corporations aren’t paying their fair share of taxes in Oregon. A new report on Wal-Mart shows just how dramatic these tax avoidance schemes really are. Americans for Tax Fairness found that Wal-Mart has placed at least $76 billion in assets in tax havens — countries in which it has no retail stores. That’s a lot of tax shelter: $76 billion is eight times more than Oregon spends on schools and services in an entire year.

We also just learned that Wal-Mart bought $43 million worth of discounted Oregon tax credits, saving about $13 million they otherwise would have paid in state taxes.

So Wal-Mart isn’t paying a lot of taxes. Lots of corporations are hiding their profits offshore these days, so what’s the big deal?

Well, as the largest private employer in the U.S., Wal-Mart is actually the cause of billions of dollars of government service demand by working Americans. Every year, we taxpayers spend roughly $6 billion to pay for the health care, food stamps, and other services that low income Wal-Mart employees rely on. Because Wal-Mart pays their staff so little, and provides so few benefits, their workers need to turn to public assistance just to get by — and taxpayers are the ones footing the bill.

Every year, we taxpayers spend roughly $6 billion to pay for the health care, food stamps, and other services that low income Wal-Mart employees rely on.

Not only are we subsidizing Wal-Mart profits, but Wal-Mart isn’t paying their fair share of taxes, and they’re not supporting the programs their workers rely on.

Well, maybe Wal-Mart can’t afford to pay better wages, or pay their taxes, and this is just how business is done in the U.S. now.  Well, not quite: Over the last 5 years, Wal-Mart reported $82 billion in profits.

Well, maybe those profits are being spread throughout the country, and we’re building our economy by allowing more people to afford goods and services. Nope. Sorry. More than half of Wal-Mart’s profits go to just four members of America’s richest family, the Waltons. Forbes reported the Walton family’s net worth was $152 billion in 2014. The four Waltons who own most of the Wal-Mart stock split $8 billion in dividends last year. According to Forbes, each of them is worth at least $35 billion.

So, yes, the truth is big business can afford sick days, health care and wages that put food on the table for working families and still turn billions in profit. They can afford to pay their fair share of taxes, instead of sheltering their profits in offshore tax havens. They simply choose not to in order to make more money, and we all pay the price.

 

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