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10 Companies Paying the Least in Taxes

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- When news broke that General Electric (GE - Get Report), among the largest U.S. companies, will pay close to zero taxes for its fiscal year, Americans were stunned.

After all, many are still out of work after the deepest recession in more than half a century. But, at GE, innovative accounting, fervent lobbying and one of the most well-staffed and financially creative tax teams have helped the industrial conglomerate hold on to profits, even as the country faces a record budget deficit, national debt at an all-time high and the looming cost of underfunded entitlement programs.

General Electric isn't the only company that pays little in taxes. The top corporate tax rate is pegged at 35%, but the following Dow companies, all of which are profitable, are paying less than that, on a net basis. According to some analysts, corporations contribute less than 7% of total U.S. tax revenue, compared to upward of 30% in other periods of American history.

Here is a closer look at the 10 least-taxed Dow companies and how much they paid the U.S. in 2010. Below, they are ordered by their effective tax rate, the actual percentage of taxable income paid to government collectors, from low to lowest.

Of note: The effective tax rate includes taxes levied by foreign governments, as well, which is why the article provides data on how much was paid to the U.S. government, specifically. In many cases, these U.S. companies are paying more in taxes to foreign governments than they are to the U.S.

10. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is a diversified health-care company, with pharmaceutical, health-care supply, medical-devices and consumer-products businesses. It's most widely known as a maker of consumer products such as Band-Aids and Listerine.

The company's sales have declined modestly in 2010, but net income and earnings per share rose 8.7% and 8.6%, respectively. J&J had a net profit margin of 12% in the fourth quarter.

The company generated $62 billion in sales and more than $17 billion of pre-tax income during fiscal 2010. Yet, it was taxed at an effective rate of 21%, with $1.2 billion of current international tax expenses, $356 million of deferred international tax expenses and $2.1 billion of U.S. taxes paid. J&J's effective tax rate fell from 22% in 2009 and 24% in 2008.

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