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What Walmart’s “improperly avoided” taxes could have paid for

The front of a Walmart store
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
The money, stored.
By Max de Haldevang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Between 2014 and 2017, Walmart “improperly avoided” up to $2.6 billion in US taxes through an elaborate tax dodge involving a “fictitious” Chinese entity, according to documents authored by a former Walmart executive and reviewed by Quartz.

While that represents just 0.014% of America’s GDP in 2015—the first full tax year that the arrangement called Project Flex was in operation—the amount could cover important services. That year, the figure was equal to:

  • One-third more than the US Secret Service’s 2015 budget (pdf, p.7) of $1.9 billion.
  • Nearly 40% of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2015 Disaster Relief Fund, which totaled $7 billion (pdf, p.130)—money often spent on responding to catastrophes such as hurricanes. 
  • The approximate cost of 19 F-35 fighter jets—the plane branded “the future of stealth technology.” The US bought 26 of them in 2015 (pdf, p.65).
  • More than the total aid the US gave in 2015 to eight of the world’s nine poorest countries by GDP per capita. (The figures exclude Afghanistan.)

Walmart denied that it owes taxes on the arrangement, saying it had the matter independently investigated and that the IRS saw all the relevant files. 

Read the full story: Walmart “improperly avoided” up to $2.6 billion in US tax through a “fictitious” Chinese entity

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