The anti-poverty group Oxfam on Thursday accused the 50 biggest U.S. companies of holding about $1.4 trillion in assets in offshore accounts to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes.
In a wide-ranging report, Oxfam said some of the best known American corporations, including drug maker Pfizer, investment banker Goldman Sachs, retailer Walmart, technology giant Apple, the General Electric consumer products company, software manufacturer Microsoft and others, keep cash reserves overseas.
The practice is legal, although the subject of occasional debate in the United States. Politically divided Washington, however, has been unable to rein in the use of the offshore accounts.
Oxfam said that from 2008 to 2014, the 50 largest U.S. companies collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts for every dollar they paid in U.S. taxes. The London-based group said 45 of the 50 companies used a network of 1,600 offshore accounts to effectively cut their U.S. tax rate to 26.5 percent, with only five paying the full 35 percent U.S. corporate rate.
"As Americans rush to finalize tax returns, multinational corporations that benefit from trillions in taxpayer-funded support are dodging billions in taxes," said Oxfam America's president, Raymond Offenheiser. "The vast sums large companies stash in tax havens should be fighting poverty and rebuilding America's infrastructure, not hidden offshore in Panama, Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands."
The Oxfam attack against U.S. companies comes in the aftermath of disclosures by investigative journalists, based on a massive leak of information from a Panamanian law firm, that the world's wealthy, powerful and famous have over decades created hundreds of offshore companies to hide their assets and often evade taxes.