Eighty-two of the country's largest profitable corporations paid no federal income tax for at least one year of the Bush administration's first three years, a study found.
The study by Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, and the affiliated Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, examined 275 Fortune 500 corporations with total cumulative profits of $1.1 trillion in 2001, 2002 and 2003. One-third paid no federal income taxes in at least one of those years, and many received refunds of taxes paid in prior years.
The think tank's 1988 survey of large corporations found the overall effective tax rate was 26.5%; a survey of companies in 1996-98 found the rate dropped to 21.7%. The latest survey showed the effective rate fell to 17.2% in 2001-03.
Under President Bush, several corporate-tax breaks have been expanded temporarily. That, with sagging profits and improper tax shelters, has driven down corporate-tax receipts as a share of the economy, to 1.2% in 2003, the second-lowest rate recorded in the post-World War II era.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has sought to exploit the issue. An economic adviser, Jason Furman, said the study shows Mr. Bush is "utterly hypocritical" when he talks about advancing a tax overhaul in a second term. The administration has failed to back many needed loophole closers, Mr. Furman said, while it pushed through the expansions of corporate-tax breaks in 2002 and 2003 that are a focus of the study's criticism.
General Electric Co. topped the list of companies with the largest total tax breaks, at $9.5 billion duringthe three-year period. It was followed by SBC Communications Inc. with $9 billion, Citigroup Inc., $4.6 billion, and International Business Machines Corp., $4.6 billion.