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CEO pay tops tax spend at 25 US firms

Aug 31 2011 12:02 AFP

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Washington - Twenty-five major US firms paid more to their chief executives than to federal tax collectors in 2010, with most of the companies receiving tax refunds, a liberal-leaning think tank said on Wednesday.

The study by the Institute for Policy Studies comes ahead of another expected round of fierce partisan bickering over whether the debt-laden United States should raise taxes on the wealthy and close loopholes to boost revenues.

The 25 CEOs - many from well-known companies like General Electric, Verizon, Boeing and eBay - were among the 100 highest paid chief executives in the United States, with 2010 pay averaging $16.7m, the report said.

And 22 of the 25 had received pay increases that year.

The 25 firms reported average global profits of $1.9bn, and 18 of them operated subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, the report said.

"Corporations don't dodge taxes. The people who run corporations do. And these people - America's CEOs - are reaping awesomely lavish rewards for the tax dodging they have their corporations do," the institute said.

The study comes after months of bickering between US President Barack Obama, who has called for raising taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes to address the country's massive debt, and Republicans, who argue such measures would cripple already slow economic growth by stifling job creation.

The study found that 20 of the companies spent more on lobbying efforts than on taxes, and 18 gave more to political campaigns than to the government.

The most profitable of the 25 firms was General Electric, which reported $5.1bn in US pre-tax income last year and received a $3.3bn tax refund, according to the report.

Officials from the companies in question could not immediately be reached, but a Verizon spokesperson quoted in the New York Times disputed the findings, saying the company's CEO's pay was tied to future stock performance.

The spokesperson, Roberto Varretoni, said Verizon's tax benefit had to be seen alongside billions of dollars in deferred taxes which "will be paid over time."

"The fact is, Verizon fully complies with all tax laws and pays its fair share of taxes," Varretoni was quoted as saying.

tax  |  us economy  |  ceos
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