Offshore Tax Dodging Blows a $707M Hole in Ohio Budget

Media Contacts
Tabitha Woodruff

New Ohio PIRG Study Exposes the Real Cost of Tax Loopholes for Ohio Residents

Ohio PIRG Education Fund

COLUMBUS, February 11 – As advocates and policy makers across the state analyze the voluminous state budget proposed last week, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group (Ohio PIRG) released a new study revealing that Ohio lost $707 million due to offshore tax dodging in 2012. Many of America’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, including Kroger, P&G, and Cardinal Health in Ohio, use tax loopholes to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes.

“Tax dodging is not a victimless offense. When corporations and individuals skirt taxes, the public is stuck with the tab. And since offshore tax dodgers avoid both state and federal taxes, they hurt everyday taxpayers twice,” according to Tabitha Woodruff, Advocate for Ohio PIRG. “Ohio should be using that money to benefit the public.” 

All told, state taxpayers across the country lost nearly $40 billion last year from offshore tax loophole abuse. To put that amount in context, $40 billion roughly equals the total amount spent by all state and local governments on firefighters in 2008. It’s also enough money to cover the educational costs for 3.7 million children for one full year.

Tax havens are used by both wealthy individuals and corporations. In Ohio, corporations don’t pay state income taxes. However, the state of Ohio lost $707 million in tax revenue from individuals using tax havens to dodge their state income taxes. 

The $707 million lost in Ohio would have been enough to fund salaries for over 12,000 additional school teachers based on an average Ohio school teacher salary. It’s enough to fully repeal the $504 million cut to Local Government Funds during the 2011-2013 state budget. $707 million is a sizeable sum – enough to buy Ohio State Buckeye football season tickets for over 400,000 Ohioans or to build 23 roller coasters at Cedar Point.

As of 2008, at least 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations in the U.S. used tax havens, according to the Government Accountability Office. At the end of 2011, 290 of the top Fortune 500 companies reported that they collectively held a staggering $1.6 trillion offshore. By using offshore tax havens, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, forcing us to make up the difference through cutting public services, growing our already big deficit, or raising taxes on everyday citizens. 

At the national level, offshore tax loopholes cost federal taxpayers $150 billion each year, which would be more than enough to cover the scheduled spending cuts that are set to take effect in just a few weeks.

“Some budget decisions are tough, but closing the offshore tax loopholes that let large companies and wealthy individuals shift their tax burden to the rest of us is a no-brainer,” Woodruff added. 

States should not wait for federal action to curb tax haven abuse. The study proposes several policy solutions that states should explore right away, including:

·         Decoupling state tax systems from the federal tax system;

·         Requiring worldwide combined reporting for multinational corporations;

·         Requiring increased disclosure of financial information; and

·         Withholding state taxes as part of federal FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) withholding. 

Here are some increasingly notorious ways that some of America’s largest corporations drastically shrink their tax bill:

·         Google used accounting techniques nicknamed the “double Irish” and the “Dutch sandwich,” which involved two Irish subsidiaries and one in Bermuda, to help shrink its tax bill by $3.1 billion from 2008 to 2010.

·         Wells Fargo paid no federal income taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, despite being profitable all three years, largely due to its use of 58 offshore tax haven subsidiaries.

·         Microsoft avoided $4.5 billion in federal income taxes over three years by using sophisticated accounting tricks to artificially shift its income to tax-friendly Puerto Rico. The company pays its Puerto Rican subsidiary 47% of the revenue generated from its American sales, despite the fact that those products were developed and sold in the U.S. 

You can download the report, “The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens: State Budgets Under Pressure from Tax Loophole Abuse,” here.

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With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursuing their own narrow agendas, the Ohio PIRG Education Fund offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. Ohio PIRG Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.