Monday, September 22, 2008

OPINION: Corporate Giants Taking More Local Money

There is news this week that two corporate giants – Verizon and Wal-Mart – are suing their local host communities to reduce their taxes.

That’s Verizon, the second-largest US telecom firm, who reported profits of 1.9 billion dollars in July, 2008. And Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, who reported profits of nearly 3.5 billion in August.

“The margin of profit is very high here,” Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Bob Dedrick told NCPR’s David Sommerstein. But that doesn’t matter to Wal-Mart, which has already been skipping out on their taxes in a “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement for the past ten years. They’re seeking an assessment that’s less then half of what it is now (about $30,000 less in town taxes). Ticonderoga has a population of about 5,500 – countless others shop in the store from the eastern Adirondacks.

By the way, Dedrick has been an outspoken supporter of the big box stores that have helped ruin local business in Ticonderoga – he once took a busload of local citizens to APA headquarters in Ray Brook to support the Ticonderoga Lowe’s. “We have had extreme support on this. APA, here we come,” he told local media at the time. Those will be famous last words – now he says “as far as corporate Wal-Mart; I’m pretty disgusted.” How about an apology to your neighbors Mr. Dedrick?

Over in Hebron, Washington County, Verizon’s four parcels are worth about $593,848 in fair market value, according to the town assessor. The company, however, wants that figure lowered by $246,000. That’s about $87,000 per parcel – quite a real estate bargain. “It doesn’t add up to a whole lot of money, but it’s a lot for a small town,” Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell told the Post Star, ” “It’s just amazing. What an easy way out of paying taxes, if they can do it.”

We all know that these two companies have a virtual monopoly in their sectors in our region. Their profits are not limited to their hosts communities, but their costs do range far and wide: county services for underpaid employees, local emergency services, road and highway maintenance, and more. These are the costs we all pay.

Then consider last month’s U.S. Government Accountability Office’s study that found that the majority of U.S. corporations don’t pay federal income taxes: “The GAO’s study found that over 60 percent of U.S. corporations—with revenue totals of more than US $2.5 trillion—did not pay federal income taxes.” Of course the study didn’t mention which companies, and one wonders where Verizon and Wal-Mart stand on that account. According to media reports, “The GAO found that 25 percent of all large corporations did not owe federal taxes in 2005. A large corporation is defined as a company with more than $250 million in assets.”

Add to those costs the $700 Billion of the CURRENT round of corporate bailouts (roughly $4,000 per individual income tax filer) – and who knows what corporate gifts lie ahead.

So much for that $600 so called “stimulus check” that went out this year.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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