Report: Corporations That Paid Nothing in Taxes Spent $450 Million to Influence Public Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 55 large corporations that paid $0 in federal corporate income taxes in 2020 spent $450 million lobbying and political contributions in recent years, according to a new Public Citizen report, The Price of Zero.

For most of the companies, paying nothing was not enough. The companies paying zero also received $3.5 billion in tax rebates, money they can turn around and spend to influence tax policy.

“Duke Energy could use the $280 million rebate from the federal government to fund its lobbying spending for the next half-century,” said Mike Tanglis, a Public Citizen research director and author of the report. “Using Uncle Sam’s money to lobby against paying taxes is the perfect embodiment of how Washington works.”

Among the findings of the report:

  • The 55 corporations that paid no federal corporate income tax in 2020 spent nearly $450 million on lobbying and campaign contributions since the 2016 election cycle. This total includes $408 million in lobbying and $42 million in campaign contributions.
  • Of the top 25 recipients of money from the corporations that paid zero in taxes in Congress, 20 are Republicans. Each of these recipients voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which lowered the corporate tax rate.
  • FedEx spent the most of any company ($71 million) followed by Charter Communications ($64 million), American Electric Power ($42 million), Duke Energy ($37 million), and Textron ($22 million).
  • These companies together have sent an average of 526 lobbyists to influence the federal government each year.
  • Many of the 55 companies also received huge rebates from the federal government in 2020. Four of the top 10 political spenders in 2020 could use their leftover rebate money to cover political spending costs for at least the next half-century.

“As Congress looks to pair incredibly important investments in jobs and families with tax changes to raise revenues, it is essential that, as part of that work, it addresses the loopholes that have allowed companies to pay nothing in federal corporate tax,” said Susan Harley, managing director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “In the meantime, it’s critical that the public understand that while paying nothing to support the upkeep of our government, these companies have been spending huge amounts of money to try to keep the game rigged in their favor.”