Why can't we see big companies' tax returns?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/01/bring-receipts.html


“before 1976, corporate tax returns were broadly considered part of the public record”

Does anybody know what happened in 1976? The article doesn’t say.


At a guess, it was probably part of this:


Equal societies also need to go one step further.

Publish Amazon’s tax returns, yes. Bit also publish Jeff Bezos’ tax returns.


You’re right.

From 1920 until 1976, the United States government treated individual income tax information as a general government asset. During that period, the Internal Revenue Service (Service) regularly disseminated tax information which could be identified with a particular taxpayer to government officials; frequently, these officials were able to obtain the information without revealing their reasons for requesting it. By the early 1970’s, federal agencies requested millions of tax returns each year.

Congress, as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, substantially revised the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code concerning tax return confidentiality. The Tax Reform Act of 1976 rejected the concept that tax information is a general government asset. Section 6103 of the Code, which sets forth the general rules governing the disclosure of tax information, was amended to provide that tax return information “shall be confidential” and no one with access to it shall disclose it “except as authorized” by the Code.





Even publicly-traded Corporations are now “people” (Citizens United).
They are afforded privacy.

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I say publish everyone’s tax returns.

Mine, yours, that asshole who’s trying to pass a bill to make America shitty again.

Of course, it’s going to lead to billions of AI corporations that are formed and dissolved every 23 seconds in order to hide threads of revenue. Just like in Snowcrash.


I thought it was widely understood that the “tax” Amazon says they pay is actually the sales tax they now collect for most sales … which isn’t a tax THEY pay, but a tax YOU pay and they just act as a broker between you and the government.

Or is it that I just assumed that at some point and now just have accepted it as fact that I actually made up wholesale?


That was my first thought when I read about Amazon’s claim in the article that they paid $2.6 billion in taxes. Technically the money went from Amazon to the IRS, but it didn’t originate there.

You can see how much they paid in income taxes. It’s a required disclosure, right on the bottom of their consolidated statement of cash flows. The figures are as follows: Net Income: 2016: 2,371 million, 2017: 3,033 million, 2018:10,073 million. Cash paid for income taxes: 2016 412 million; 2017 957 million, 2018: 1,184 million. Up till 2018, these figures look roughly reasonable. Something weird happens then. It may have something to do with stock option comp, but it’s hard to tell, and their footnote isn’t very helpful.

But to figure it out, you’d need access to not only the US tax returns but all foreign tax returns, and, in many cases, probably the underlying workpapers as well. Note that these are worldwide income taxes, not US income taxes.- and this is part of the argument for lower corporate US rates- companies have considerable discretion in where income will be recognized and taxed. If Amazon can recognize a lot of income in Ireland or the US, for example, a small decrease in the US rate may shift the recognition of a lot of income into the US jurisdiction. They’re paying tax on it somewhere; it just may not be here. . .


I don’t know if it’s been widely accepted but that was my first thought when I was the amount in the article.

From a legal perspective the sales tax Amazon collects is paid by the customer and collected on their behalf. In theory I can record the sales tax I’ve paid and write it off my income tax, but IIRC Amazon can’t write off the sales tax they have collected, so it is not tax they paid.


Clearly the answer is competition. Let’s get the Sanders and Warren campaigns to compete for which one will be first to release a tax-return-transparency plan.

If it’s something that should be tracked and audited by the government, then add a service charge for it.


I’d see it happily paid just like a fine for misconduct with no admission of guilt. Just another cost of doing (underhanded and corrupt) business.

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It took a while before the supreme court decided some actual human beings were people, so… Maybe they aren’t always right?


Console yourself, Americans, by learning that the UK is equally shit, just in different ways.

How Britain can help you get away with stealing millions

All seems perfectly reasonable to me. I mean, why would you bother checking up on someone with such an obviously real name as Xxx Stalin?


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