Apr 27, 2022 - Business

AT&T didn't pay federal taxes in 2021

Effective tax rate of Fortune 100 companies
Data: Center for American Progress analysis of company 10-k filings; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Two of the largest companies in Texas paid little or no federal income tax last year, according to a new report provided exclusively to Axios by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.

  • Dallas-based AT&T reported that it will pay no federal income taxes in 2021, despite $29.6 billion in revenue. The company reported a tax refund — or an income tax benefit — of $1.2 billion.

Why it matters: Corporate profits surged to record highs last year, thanks in part to copious amounts of government spending. The idea that companies that earned billions aren't paying any federal tax is sure to fuel criticisms from Democratic lawmakers.

  • "These are huge profitable corporations, and they hardly pay any taxes," said Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at CAP who co-authored the report. "It's a glaring sign that something is wrong with the tax system."

Zoom out: Nineteen of the nation's largest businesses paid little or no taxes last year, per Axios' Emily Peck.

  • The CAP report says Irving-based ExxonMobil paid 2.8% in taxes. The company said that its effective income tax rate for 2021 was 31% (a number that includes deferred taxes).

State of play: Companies don't have to publicly release their income tax filings. This report — and others like it over the years — relies on public companies' annual 10k fillings, where they estimate a "federal income tax expense," or the money they will pay to Uncle Sam.

What they're saying: "This status quo can be changed. Polls show that raising taxes on corporations is among the most popular elements of President Biden’s economic agenda," the CAP report says. "Policymakers must act now to ensure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share."

  • AT&T didn't reply to requests for comment.
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