Walmart Uses 22 Shell Companies to Hide an Incredible Amount of Money in Luxembourg

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14846776262/in/photolist-oBXBk5-8DQ4y8-n5bNdJ-b7YTT-62wdCj-5YsTof-Vtr5-iGc3bF-KhcSQ-f3PqEy-a9SyCF-6BAjk2-i1V5f-nSFwbC-9hEpVu-mhYFAR-oxHoyB-879Xfp-eg4m6g-5Bdc2K-8FD5DX-n7o9MK-m5g5o8-hrf5Js-kV1pdi-qMzoau-cYWGsA-jPukJR-nvUx1p-ncD6zt-u5vp5-mXnJS6-dreh8R-o5hLq3-8nzsus-s378Zq-fqHCqq-8Wqzwa-2c4zo-Khm6P-oesYsG-qjfgJu-oUyu2p-5RDRSR-pbQqXq-7PhqkX-oB47qL-7rAfYH-nNo1Vq-ocNVz2">Mike Mozart</a>/Flickr and <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/39997856@N03/8566821996/in/photolist-e42cHw-hCrkhP-qKiTyV-5m3g8T-coBmLN-hCrqgX-3q92am-coBmrW-jyVc8U-ghFAt1-ptPhxG-pF7Nvy-jtLoQ8-fMPy9T-cZWv6w-9VsMrZ-6AkE1h-coBnnw-3DSc3F-5xJ5Sc-4C44Gg-g9T42B-hPMSUj-hwTYCU-4smbMC-eaqnxq-poZXyF-rgKb6w-cdTpUA-hshR6d-ei6TtN-eh3pok-8V86G1-dcUJE5-5UKyY1-dnz2WD-rp7KZu-5UgXZH-coBmcY-dSKjoL-gdDD5D-d1AQnJ-grU8PB-edygju-muntF6-odJVmF-i86PaP-4cwNiX-nvLkux-nZAFae">Mariusz Kluzniak</a>/Flickr

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Overseas tax evasion by American corporations has become a political hot button of late: It haunted Mitt Romney in 2012, spurred President Barack Obama last year to crack down on so-called inversions, and has since been seized upon as a 2016 campaign issue by Hillary Clinton. American companies now have an estimated $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits stashed overseas, big sums of which belong to Apple, General Electric, and Microsoft.

Walmart is also a major overseas tax dodger, according to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal-leaning think tank and advocacy group. The world’s largest retailer has stashed $64 billion worth of assets in Luxembourg, Europe’s smallest and most notorious tax haven. These assets—including cash and the ownership of real estate holdings around the world—are worth more than Luxembourg’s entire gross domestic product. If they were liquidated and sprinkled around, it would amount to more than $100,000 per acre in this tiny country of 1,000 square miles that lacks a single Walmart store. Walmart has so much wealth in Luxembourg, in fact, that it could pay several times over to plaster the entire country in Nexus Granite Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles, which sell at Walmart for $8.99 per box.

Since 2011, Walmart has transferred more than $45 billion in assets to a network of 22 shell companies in Luxembourg, the report says.

In fact, most Luxembourgers can afford flooring that’s considerably more posh. A primary source of the luxe in this city-state of some 500,000 people is its corporate tax rate. Between 2010 and 2013, Walmart reported paying less than 1 percent in tax to Luxembourg on $1.3 billion in profits. Walmart also generates $1.5 billion worth of tax deductions in Luxembourg each year by making “phantom interest payments” to its home office in the United States, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. These benefits may explain why, since 2011, Walmart has transferred more than $45 billion in assets to a network of 22 shell companies in Luxembourg, the report says.

Walmart disputed the report’s findings: “This is the same union-supported group that regularly issues flawed reports on Walmart to promote their agenda rather than the facts,” the company said in a statement to USA Today. “This latest report includes incomplete, erroneous information designed to mislead readers.” But the retailing giant did not go into any further detail.

UPDATE 6:00 p.m. PST: In an email to Mother Jones, a Walmart representative detailed the company’s objections to the report:

When calculating total assets, this calculation incorrectly includes intercompany assets, primarily investment in our wholly-owned subsidiaries and intercompany loans which both eliminate on consolidation.  The methodology is flawed and based upon statutory reports prior to intercompany eliminations which occur during consolidation.

As disclosed in our last form 10K (footnote 14), the Walmart International segment has total assets after intercompany eliminations of $80.5 billion, the vast majority of which are retail store buildings, fixtures, inventory and distribution facilities physically located in the countries where we serve customers.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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