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Thirty-Two Corporations Spent More on Compensation for Top Executives in 2010 Than They Paid in Income Taxes

Over the last few decades, executive pay at large corporations has skyrocketed. Today, American CEOs make 263 times the average compensation for American workers, up from the 30 to 1 ratio in the 1970s. In 2010 alone, CEO pay went up 27 percent while average worker pay went up just 2 percent. At the same time, corporate tax revenue has plunged to historic lows. During the 1960s, for instance, the United States consistently raised nearly 4 percent of GDP in corporate revenue. During the 1970s, the total was still above 2.5 percent of GDP. But the U.S. now raises less than 1.5 percent of GDP from the corporate income tax.

Over the last few decades, executive pay at large corporations has skyrocketed. Today, American CEOs make 263 times the average compensation for American workers, up from the 30 to 1 ratio in the 1970s. In 2010 alone, CEO pay went up 27 percent while average worker pay went up just 2 percent.

At the same time, corporate tax revenue has plunged to historic lows. During the 1960s, for instance, the United States consistently raised nearly 4 percent of GDP in corporate revenue. During the 1970s, the total was still above 2.5 percent of GDP. But the U.S. now raises less than 1.5 percent of GDP from the corporate income tax.

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According to a new report called “S.& P. 500 Executive Pay: Bigger Than …Whatever You Think It Is,” put together by the independent research firm R. G. Associates, there are currently 32 companies that actually spent more on compensation for their top executives in 2010 than they paid in corporate income taxes:

Total executive pay increased by 13.9 percent in 2010 among the 483 companies where data was available for the analysis. The total pay for those companies’ 2,591 named executives, before taxes, was $14.3 billion…Warming to his subject, Mr. Ciesielski also determined that 158 companies paid more in cash compensation to their top guys and gals last year than they paid in audit fees to their accounting firms. Thirty-two companies paid their top executives more in 2010 than they paid in cash income taxes.

This isn’t really surprising when you consider that several of the largest U.S. corporations simply paid no taxes at all last year. General Electric, for instance, made more than $5 billion last year, but had a tax rate of -64 percent, meaning it received billions in tax benefits. Boeing hasn’t paid any federal income tax in three years, while CEO Jim McNerny made $19 million last year.

At the moment, a slew of multinational corporations — who already pay exceedingly low taxes — are lobbying for yet another tax boondoggle that would cost the government nearly $80 billion in revenue over the next ten years. With corporate taxes already so low, and corporations flush with cash and paying tens of millions to their CEOs, there’s little reason to grant these huge companies yet another giant tax giveaway.

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