Special Report

Companies Paying the Most Taxes

There has been a bruising battle over how much America’s largest corporations should pay in taxes, especially as the size of the federal budget deficit grows. While on paper the federal corporate tax rate is 35%, companies usually pay far less than that because of loopholes and subsidies. That has caused some activists to say that companies should pay the full rate regardless of special accounting charges, or if some revenue is earned overseas. Still, several huge American companies pay the 35% rate, and because of their size, the amount is well into the billions of dollars.

The companies paying the most in taxes tend to fall into only a few categories. The first is huge oil companies that often post outsized profits every year. They are both large and getting larger as the price of oil rises and remains near historic highs.

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Another group of companies that pays very high taxes are the large tech companies, particularly those that have been around for some time. Unlike the darlings of the moment such as Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) pays tremendous taxes and has done so for many years. Even though its growth has slowed, it continues to be very profitable.

The third group is the most unlikely, at least in the eyes of most investors. The banking industry was nearly ruined by the 2008 global financial crisis. However, since then banks have bounced back, and many have huge profits from trading and investment banking operations, and even from renewed demand for mortgages.

Oddly, while some politicians and the public would like to see the tax burden on the mammoth companies raised, other experts want to see the tax rate reduced. Organizations such as the Tax Foundation have made the case that lower taxes will encourage companies to add workers, expand and make more purchases of plants and other equipment. While this opinion is probably not very popular, it illustrates how complex the issue of corporate taxes can be.

Regardless of how this debate will shake out, each of the 10 companies on this list paid at least $4 billion in taxes, and one of them, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), paid more than $30 billion. It is at least some evidence that America’s large companies often pay extraordinary amounts.

To identify the companies that pay the most 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.

These are the companies paying the most in taxes.