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​Walmart employees deliver chairman $7.8 bn 'tax bill' for company's tax breaks

Published time: April 17, 2014 02:19
Reuters / Eric Thayer

Reuters / Eric Thayer

Protesting Walmart’s tax privileges as it pays its workers notoriously low wages, the store’s employees and others have delivered a $7.8 billion “tax bill” to the Arizona home of the retail giant’s chairman, Rob Walton.

A report released this week showed Walmart is the beneficiary of $7.8 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies from the US tax system. Employees of the retail giant and others used the opportunity to remind Walmart heir Walton how many of the company's workers are forced to depend on social programs to get by, while Walmart reaps billions in profits.

The action is the latest in a string of demonstrations organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers and associated union-supported groups that aim to highlight Walmart employees’ low wages and paltry benefits.

"Even though Walmart is making $16 billion in profits, the Waltons seem to think the American people should be providing them another $8 billion in tax breaks," Anthony Goytia, a Walmart employee, said in a statement. "When the richest family in America isn’t paying its fair share, it’s no wonder that our children’s schools, our roads and basic public programs are getting cut left and right."

The report – “Walmart on Tax Day: How Taxpayers Subsidize America's Biggest Employer and Richest Family” – from the public advocacy group American for Tax Fairness (ATF) said the company’s low wages and lack of benefits saves it about $6.2 billion annually, as many employees are forced to depend on government programs like food stamps to get by.

The $6.2 billion figure is based on data from a 2013 study by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce, which found that “a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers,” according to ATF.

The organization then took the middle-point of that range – $4,415 – and multiplied it by 1.4 million, the approximate number of Walmart workers, to figure the overall taxpayers’ bill for the corporation’s policies.

Tax breaks and loopholes in the US tax code allow the mega-corporation to dodge around $1 billion in taxes per year, ATF’s report found.

The Waltons, owners of more than 50 percent of the corporation’s shares, are legally able to bypass paying $607 million in federal taxes on their company dividends, according to ATF. This is because investment income is taxed at a lower bracket than regular income.

"Because the Waltons have investments other than Walmart, this estimate may significantly understate the savings they derive from the tax preference on investment income,” the report said.

Walmart benefits significantly from the other side of the food stamp paradigm, collecting about one-fifth of total food stamp sales.

“Walmart told analysts last year that the company has captured 18 percent of the SNAP market,” the report reads. “Using that figure, we estimate that the company accounted for $13.5 billion out of $76 billion in food stamp sales in 2013.”

The report ends by denouncing a tax system that incentivizes the kind of policies carried out by Walmart.

"Polls show that Americans want a tax system that requires large corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share," the report concluded. "This report shows that our current system is anything but fair – rather it provides special treatment to America’s biggest corporations and richest families leaving individual taxpayers and small businesses to pick up the tab."

A Walmart spokesman called the report “inaccurate and misleading,” according to Forbes.

“More than 99 percent of our associates earn above minimum wage,” Randy Hargrove said. “In fact, the average hourly wage for our associates, both full and part-time, is an average of $11.83 per hour.”

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