VOCAL-NY joined a large coalition of community, labor, student, faith and Occupy organizations on January 9th to launch a new campaign that will raise $1 billion in revenue for jobs and safety net programs by closing corporate tax loopholes. View a list of New York’s worst corporate tax dodgers here.
Media coverage included YNN Capitol Region TV:
“When it comes to the budget deficit, ‘shared sacrifice’ has become cover to be able to attack the poor and vulnerable,” said [VOCAL-NY Board member and leader] Bobby Tolbert, who said he is HIV-positive and fears possible cuts to medical and housing programs to keep state budget deficits in check.
Tolbert said, “Tax loopholes and corrupt bank investments, foreclosures, have turned the American dream to a nightmare.”
Tolbert joined a coalition of group, unions and teacher and services advocates to call on some corporations to pay more in taxes, what they say would be their “fair share.”
Michael Kink, with the Strong Economy for All Coalition, said, “A large-scale new effort to raise over a billion dollars for this year’s state budget.”
They cite companies that they say pay a lower rate than the 4.1 percent a family of four in New York making $58,000 a year pays. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, American Express, Verizon, Goldman Sachs and News Corp hade billions in profits from 2008 to 2010, paying millions or hundreds of millions in taxes during the same time period to all states and local governments, but paying only a couple percent in taxes. Still, the stats aren’t without their caveats.
Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute admitted, “These might be wonderful citizens for New York. This is a national average, but we don’t have a roadmap. What we need is transparency and we need disclosure at the state level – what are you paying in corporate income taxes?”
And they’re also not without controversy. Verizon called it a “tired refrain” from the unions, but said that they pay their fair share, comply with all tax laws, and from 2006 to 2010 paid out more than $7.5 billion in state and federal taxes alone. Goldman Sachs told us they have no comment, but they had paid a higher rate, above 30 percent, before the economic downturn according to some reports. The other corporations did not return our calls and e-mails.
Now the question is will state leaders hear the message and then actually do something about it? Though, the governor did say broadly that he wants to make New York’s tax system the fairest in the nation.
Kink said, “In the same way that last year the governor and legislature made a down payment on tax fairness by closing tax gaps between the rich poor and asking the tax reform and fairness commission to look at a long-term approach, this year we think the same thing can be done for corporate tax loopholes.”
This, a battle over transparency, and which way to look through the budget shortfall prism, as corporations paying millions and even billions in total taxes say they’re doing their part, and an increasingly vocal opposition claims those percentages need to be much higher to fill state coffers to pay for programs many depend on.