Microsoft, the software titan familiar to most Americans, has benefited handsomely from using loopholes in the federal tax code to avoid paying its fair share of corporate income taxes. The corporation has avoided paying $4.5 billion in U.S. income taxes in recent years, according to evidence presented by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI).
To avoid paying income taxes, Microsoft “sold” the right to market its products in the Americas to an offshore subsidiary, which then “licensed” back to the parent company the right to sell its products in the United States. The effect was that in 2011, almost half of the value of Microsoft’s U.S. sales was channeled offshore, and through this “transfer-pricing” shell game the company avoided $4.5 billion in U.S. income taxes over three years.
Senator Carl Levin’s Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (S. 1533) bill would close two tax loopholes that corporations use to shuffle their intangible property, like licenses and patents, to offshore subsidiaries and dodge paying the taxes they owe. Closing these two loopholes would raise $23 billion in revenue over 10 years. Eliminating such corporate tax loopholes represents a positive step forward in ensuring that profitable corporations such as Microsoft, among others, pay their fair share of taxes.