Big Corporations Paid Shockingly Little In Taxes Last Year

February 7, 2024

New Data Reveal 5 Huge Firms—GE, GM, Meta, Tesla & T-Mobile—Paid Super Low Rates Or Even Got Refunds Despite Billions in Profits

WASHINGTON – Some of America’s marquee corporations with billions in profits each—General Electric, General Motors, Meta (owner of Facebook), Tesla and T-Mobile—paid little in federal income taxes last year and in some cases even got big refunds, according to a new analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF). Together the five companies earned over $70 billion in profits yet paid an effective average tax rate of just 6.9%, even as several of them provided wealthy shareholders with stock buybacks. The statutory corporate tax rate is 21%; in a recent year, a typical American family paid 13.6%.

“Massive American corporations are rolling in dough but contributing very little of it back to the society that helps make their success possible,” said David Kass, ATF’s executive director. “The share of federal revenue from corporate taxes had been declining for years. The 2017 Trump-GOP tax law made the situation worse by slashing the corporate tax rate by three-fifths and failing to close loopholes that let big firms shift profits and ship jobs offshore. When big corporations dodge their fair share of taxes, we get some combination of three bad results: working families pay more, vital public services are cut, or the deficit explodes.”

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

General Electric earned nearly $7 billion in 2023, yet instead of paying any federal income tax on those profits they got a refund of $423 million. Of the four firms that paid any taxes, Meta paid the highest rate at 11.5%, but that was just barely more than half the statutory rate. The two automakers, GM and Tesla, paid only 4.1% and 1.5%, respectively. T-Mobile paid a paltry 0.4% in federal taxes. 

While T-Mobile failed to pay practically anything in federal income taxes last year, it still managed to spend plenty of money on stock buybacks in 2023, repurchasing over $13 billion of its own shares to benefit rich shareholders. Stock buybacks increase the value of shares remaining in investor hands. It’s a tax-free gift to these shareholders, who are overwhelmingly wealthy

Meta spent four times more on buybacks—nearly $20 billion worth—than it paid in taxes. GM’s $11 billion in share repurchases was more than 40 times as much as it paid in taxes. 

GE, GM and T-Mobile collectively spent almost $2 billion on another form of shareholder reward: cash dividends. The top base tax rate on dividends and the capital gains that result from buybacks is about half the top rate on earned income from wages (20% vs. 37%).

In addition to the reduced tax rate they’ve enjoyed since 2017, loopholes and special breaks contribute to the low or nonexistent taxes paid by many of America’s largest corporations. ATF’s analysis is based on reports filed annually with the federal government by public companies.