Tax Day 2011: “The More You Make, the Less You Pay“

At a time when federal and state lawmakers are grappling withhuge budget deficits, the impact of corporate tax dodging is getting vigorous attention.

Public outrage is growing over reports that General Electric paid no taxes in 2010. Other global companies such as Boeing, Verizon, Bank of America also haven’t chipped in a dime to Uncle Sam.

At the center of the movement to change that is US Uncut, a 7-week-old grassroots effort with the message: “No Budget Cuts Until Tax Dodgers Pay Up.” Since February 26, US Uncut has organized over 170 local demonstrations at the storefronts and offices of notorious tax dodgers.

On April 13, US Uncut teamed up with the theatrical Yes Mento play a huge prank on General Electric. They issued a mock General Electric press release with the headline “GE Responds to Public Outcry—Will Donate Entire $3.2 Billion Tax Refund to Help Offset Cuts and Save American Jobs.” Associated Press and other news outlets ran the story before the hoax was revealed, and the value of GE stock dipped dramatically.

According to Shaxson, tax havens—or “secrecy jurisdictions”—are the mechanisms through which wealthy individuals and multinational corporations move money around the planet to avoid taxation and regulation. These same mechanisms facilitate criminal activity, from laundering drug money to financing terrorist networks.US Uncut activists are planning over 100 demonstrations over the tax day weekend, April 15-18th. Some of the more creative actions include a reenactment in Boston of the ride of Paul Revere—and a “guerilla book-signing” in Washington, DC with Nicholas Shaxson, the author of the new book, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens.

A year ago, the Tea Party’s views about taxes dominated the news around Tax Day. But this year, media and public focus is on millionaire and corporate tax dodgers. Business Week’s cover story this week is “The Billionaire's Guide to Paying No Taxes.” Reporter Jessie Drucker, who wrote the article, summed up his findings: “the more you make, the less you pay.” For our nation’s millionaires and billionaires, “this could be the best tax day since the early 1930s.”The cost of tax havens is estimated to be over $100 billion in lost revenue each year. And a coalition of more than 20 U.S. companies have launched a “WinAmerica” campaign to lobby for a “tax holiday” on $1.2 trillion in overseas profits they want to bring back to the United States. US Uncut is mounting a campaign to educate the public about this organized tax dodge.

At a time when many governors and lawmakers are saying “we’re broke,” polls show that the public wants to hike taxes on millionaires and corporate tax dodgers before cutting budgets.

A new report that I co-authored, Unnecessary Austerity, demonstrates that budget cuts are unnecessary if we reverse fifty years of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and tax dodging corporations. If corporations and households with $1 million income paid at the same levels they did in 1961, the Treasury would collect an additional $716 billion a year—or $7 trillion over a decade.

The good news is efforts like US Uncut are touching a nerveas Americans think about unequal sacrifice in the face of budget cuts to schools, mental health services, infrastructure, and even home heating oil for low income elderly residents.With Congress virtually captured by corporate interests, it will require a powerful social movement to turn the tide on budget and tax matters.

The creative spirit of local actions is flourishing as volunteer organizations use Facebook and Twitter to meet up and protest. The budget cuts will likely worsen over the coming year—but the seeds of a movement to build a more fair economy are starting to sprout.