Re: surge in U.S. corporate profits

From: Jurriaan Bendien (andromeda246@HETNET.NL)
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 19:53:24 EDT

In interpreting these statistics, which may give a trend indication, I think
it should be borne in mind that the NIPA data sets, or stock exchange data
based on corporate reports, differ very significantly from tax data, and
also that a very significant amount of US corporate profit earnings are not
declared in the USA, but are lodged in tax shelters abroad. For example, in
an article in the Boston Globe (24 February 2004), Stephen J. Glain cited
Martin A. Sullivan, an economist and columnist for TaxNotes, who concluded
from his analysis of the Commerce Department data for 2001, that the US
companies recorded 46 percent of their total overseas profits (partly
included by BEA in GNP and the current accounts), i.e. nearly half, in tax
havens, even although these countries accounted for only 19 percent of the
overseas economic activity of these companies, if measured by the value of
their assets, sales, costs of equipment, and number of employees. Also, he
said that in 1998, the NBER had discovered that $154 billion (half the gap
between "book value" and "tax-declared" income for that year), could not be
reconciled using ordinary accounting methods, and attributed at least part
of the difference to deceptive accounting practices. The US Tax Advocate
additionally notes very significant underreporting of profit income by
self-employed proprietors. That is just to say, discovering empirically just
how much profit really is generated by US capitalism each year would be a
complex undertaking, which would have to involve a range of estimation
procedures based on the observable empirical evidence. But it's clear that
official profit aggregates typically understate the real magnitudes, and the
greater the deregulation of the market economy, the greater that
understatement is likely to be.


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