At least 25 top United States companies paid more to their chief executives in 2010 than they did to the federal government in taxes, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The companies - which include household names like eBay, Boeing, General Electric and Verizon - averaged $1.9 billion each in profits, according to the study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal-leaning research group. But a variety of shelters, loopholes and tax reduction strategies allowed the companies to average more than $400 million each in tax benefits - which can be taken as a refund or used as write-off against earnings in future years. The chief executives of those companies were paid an average of more than $16 million per year, the study said, a figure substantially higher than the $10.8 million average for all companies in the S&P's 500-stock index.
The authors of the study, which examined the regulatory filings of the 100 companies with the best-paid chief executives, said that their findings suggested that current US policy was rewarding tax avoidance rather than innovation. "We have no evidence that CEO's are fashioning, with their executive leadership, more effective and efficient enterprises," the study concluded. "However, ample evidence suggests that CEO's and their corporations are expending more energy on avoiding taxes than perhaps ever before."