WASHINGTON—A handful of large companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRK.B, -0.75% and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +1.79%, could bear most of the burden from a 15% corporate minimum tax President Biden signed into law last month.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina Tax Center analyzed securities filings to determine what companies would have paid if the tax had been in place last year. They found fewer than 80 publicly traded U.S. companies would have paid any corporate minimum tax in 2021, and just six—including Amazon and Warren Buffett’s conglomerate—would have paid half of the estimated $32 billion in revenue the levy would have generated.
The tax, which takes effect in January, is the largest revenue-raising provision in Democrats’ climate, healthcare and tax law. The provision, projected to generate $222 billion over a decade, alters tax incentives and complicates corporate tax decisions. Democrats aimed the provision at large companies that report profits to shareholders but pay relatively little tax.
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“Who actually pays a lot is just not very many firms at all,” said Jeff Hoopes, an accounting professor at UNC Chapel Hill who is one of the study’s authors. “My guess is it will not be the same firms every single year.”
Although this wasn’t the aim of the law, it could have an impact on some of the wealthiest Americans. Some Democrats proposed direct taxes on billionaires’ unrealized capital gains earlier in the legislative process. While that wasn’t adopted, the new corporate minimum tax would increase the tax burden on some wealthy shareholders, such as Warren Buffett at Berkshire and Jeff Bezos at Amazon.
An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com.
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