"These 280 corporations received a total of nearly $223 billion in tax subsidies," says Robert McIntyre, director at Citizens for Tax Justice and the report's lead author, in a statement. "This is wasted money that could have gone to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit."

"Our study provides proof that too many corporations are already being coddled by our tax system," he adds.

All of the companies monitored by the study were big ones -- each was included in the Fortune 500, the largest, most profitable companies in the U.S. The data show that, by and large, America's largest companies pay a lower tax rate than the secretaries, customer service reps and line workers the companies employ.

Here's a breakdown from the Citizens for Tax Justice Web site:
  • The average effective tax rate for all 280 companies in the study over the three-year period was 18.5%; for the period 2009-10 it was 17.3%, less than half the statutory rate of 35%.
  • Total tax subsidies given to all 280 profitable corporations amounted to $222.7 billion from 2008-10.
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) tops the list of 280 U.S. corporations getting the most in tax subsidies, with nearly $18 billion in tax breaks from the U.S. treasury in the last three years.
  • Pepco Holdings (POM) had the lowest effective tax rate of all the companies in the study, at negative 57.6% over the three-year period.
  • Some companies within sectors fare worse than others. For example, the report finds that Fedex (FDX) paid a 0.9% tax rate over the three-year period while its competitor, UPS (UPS), paid a 24.1% rate.
  • Financial services got the largest share (16.8%) of all federal tax subsidies over the past three years. More than half of federal corporate tax subsidies for companies in the study went to four industries: financial services, utilities, telecommunications, and oil, gas and pipelines.
  • Considering these numbers, the fact that 2012 is an election year implies that whoever can do a better job making the case for tax reform stands a better chance of helping their preferred candidates gain or keep elected office.

    Expect more studies highlighting who is and isn't paying their "fair share" of taxes in the next year.

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