Last year, the government extracted $1.1 trillion in taxes from us more or less hardworking individual taxpayers. But now it will pay, along with the states, $429 million of our taxes to the coolest Silicon-Valley beauty queen: Facebook. In net tax refunds! Part of a vast package of juicy corporate welfare programs. Facebook isn’t just hogging our data; it’s gobbling up our money.
Timing was a bit inconvenient, however. The “sequester,” as the automatic spending cuts by the federal government have been elegantly named, is scheduled to kick in on March 1. A national disaster, according to the New York Times. It would threaten everything from national security to preschool programs for low-income kids. It would cause hundreds of thousands of jobs to evaporate, or whatever. Clearly, trying to live within one’s means, or at least a modest step closer to it, is never a healthy idea.
So, as the drama with all its lurid theatrics is playing out in Washington, Facebook filed its first 10-K annual report with the SEC, containing its financial statements for 2012 along with a host of small-print footnotes which presumably no one would ever look at. But the recalcitrant nonpartisan research and advocacy group, Citizens for Tax Justice, combed through it anyway.
And it found “an amazing admission”: despite $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits from its US operations in 2012, Facebook didn’t pay any federal or state income taxes in the US—in fact it will collect net tax refunds totaling $429 million.
Facebook is relying on a single tax break in our glorious corporate tax-dodge code to obtain its negative tax rate: the deductibility of executive and employee stock options. It cut Facebook’s federal and state income taxes by $1.03 billion last year—but that was just part of it. As Facebook said in its footnote under “Share-based Compensation,” on page 68 of the 10-K: “during the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011, and 2010, we realized tax benefits from share-based award activity of $1.03 billion, $433 million, and $115 million respectively.”
Another $2.17 billion of this US tax break is carried forward. To rub it in, COO Sheryl Sandberg giddily pointed out during the earnings call