Oil companies operating in the U.S. typically pay taxes at or above the 35% rate on corporate profits. But for about one in four big oil companies, tax rates have fallen recently, even as profits have soared.
Of the 87 publicly traded oil companies with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion, the effective tax rates of 21 companies fell in the most recent quarter compared with average rates paid over the trailing 12 months, Reuters data show.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC's tax rate fell to 37% in the third quarter from 41%, BP PLC's declined to about 27% from more than 30% and Burlington Resources Inc.'s dropped to about 33% from 37%. The rates were derived by dividing the amount of income tax paid by taxable income.
A Shell spokesman said the company wouldn't discuss why its tax rate changed because the information was "commercially sensitive."
For the corporatist spinners of the Bush Junior era, the phrase "commercially sensitive" is a new euphemism that means "secretly screwing the working taxpayer."
In that way it is a close cousin of Nixon's "limited incursion" (meaning "invasion") or facts that "are at variance with certain of my previous statements" — a euphemism for the fact that he had lied repeatedly.
Neither Bush Senior nor Ronald Reagan is Dubya's political father — his historical legacy will endure as the spawn of Nixon.