The Big Companies Paying the Most in Taxes -- and the Least

Exxon Mobile by John Gress, Getty Images
John Gress, Getty Images

As our representatives in Washington continue their extended conflict over who should pay how much in taxes, one of the key battlegrounds involves corporate taxes. On paper the federal corporate tax rate is 35% -- which is on the high side, worldwide -- but between loopholes and subsidies, that's not what most big companies pay, and the disparities can be enormous. Some Fortune 500 companies pay billions, while others pay nothing.

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It is profitability that puts a company on track for a big tax bill, and you'll recognize the big payers. By contrast, there are several ways a company can avoid paying taxes. One is simple: The corporation loses large sums of money, and as a byproduct of that, it pays no taxes or even gets tax credits. Another way to get federal tax benefits is through huge fines, mostly for illegal or unethical behavior. "Acts of God" can lead to steep write-offs as well.

Regardless of how the political debate shakes out, it's worth taking a look at which businesses send the most to the IRS, which pay the least, and why. Here then, are the 10 companies with the largest tax bills, and the 10 biggest companies that have recently managed to dodge the tax man altogether.

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Methodology: To identify the companies that pay the most and least taxes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed corporate tax payments for the top 150 companies by revenue. Included in our analysis were company financials, including income, employee count and earnings before taxes. These were either provided by Capital IQ, or obtained by 24/7 Wall St. reviews of SEC filings or financial statements. All data, including taxes paid, are for 2012, or the most recent complete fiscal year.

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