The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks

By Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger. Contributors include Brent Soloway.
Institute for Policy Studies, November 13, 2012

“The ‘Fix the Debt’ CEOs are trying to pass themselves off as noble leaders who are willing to compromise in order the save America from financial ruin,” says report co-author Scott Klinger. “In reality, the campaign is a Trojan horse concealing massive corporate tax breaks that would make our debt situation much worse.”

The Fix the Debt campaign has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly.

This report focuses on the Fix the Debt campaign’s corporate tax agenda and in particular the windfalls the campaign’s member corporations would reap from a territorial tax system. We also analyze the savings the Fix the Debt campaign’s CEOs have derived from the Bush tax cuts and how many of them received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal income taxes.

Key findings:

– The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.

– The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.

– Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

Report co-authors Anderson and Klinger are co-authors of the Institute’s widely publicized 19th annual “Executive Excess” report, which focused on taxpayer subsidies for excessive CEO compensation. That report received significant media coverage, including in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Download the full report. 

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