Among the 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 26 of them earned more last year than their companies paid in federal income taxes.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
The intersection of tax loopholes and executive pay is the theme of the 19th annual Executive Excess compensation survey, which concludes that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing top CEO pay to the tune of $46 a year for every American.
The 2012 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, released today, says changes in U.S. tax law are needed because the practices they cite are all legal.
The tax code has become a prime enabler of bloated CEO pay, said Scott Klinger, who wrote the report with Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins and Sam Pizzigati.
On average, the compensation researchers found, the 26 highlighted firms had more than $1 billion in 2011 pretax income and received net tax benefits averaging $163 million. Those companies CEOs averaged $20.4 million in total compensation.
Combined, the 26 corporations have 537 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar, the report said.
The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation included some reins on executive compensation, but the report said regulators had failed to implement most of the provisions. An exception is the non-binding shareholder say on pay vote, which is in force.
Separately, the Economic Policy Institute this week focused on the same tax-avoidance topic, releasing a report from Steven Balsam, a Temple University accounting professor, that said tax-deductible executive compensation cost the U.S. treasury $30.4 billion for 2007-2010.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies report, one remedy for corporate tax dodging would be to pass legislation already introduced in the U.S. Senate. That includes the Cut Unjustified Tax Loophole Act, the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act, and the Ending Excessive Corporate Deductions for Stock Options Act.
Among examples cited as needing change: Chesapeake Energy paid $13 million in federal income taxes last year on $2.8 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. Its effective corporate tax rate over its 23-year history has been 1 percent, partly because of the drilling-costs tax benefit it receives.
Meanwhile, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon last year got $17.9 million in compensation.
The report calls for:
• Limiting performance-based CEO pay that can be deducted from corporate taxes.
• Closing a loophole that allows corporations to defer unlimited sums of CEO compensation.
• Eliminating the preferential treatment of carried interest income.
The complete report is online at www.IPS-DC.org.