The 26 Top CEOs Who Made More Than Their Companies Paid In Federal Taxes

Once again, it’s time for the annual Institute for Policy Studies report on which top CEOs are earning more money than the companies they work for are paying out to federal government in taxes.

“Our nation’s tax code has become a powerful enabler of bloated CEO pay,” writes the IPS [PDF]. “Some tax rules on the books today essentially encourage corporations to compensate their executives at unconscionably higher multiples of what their average workers are paid.”

Many of the companies on the list are household names (AT&T, Motorola, Ford, AIG, Travelers), while others are not on the tip of most people’s tongues.

Of the 26 companies on the list, seven were on last year’s list of 25 CEOs — Boeing, Motorola Mobility, Motorola Systems, Chesapeake Energy, Ford, Marsh & McLennan, and International Paper.

This year’s crop of CEOs averaged $20.4 million in total compensation, a 23% percent increase over the average for last year’s batch of top executives.

Meanwhile, the companies they worked for received an average of a $163 million tax refund from the federal government. Only a handful of businesses paid any federal taxes in 2011.

“The four most direct tax subsidies for excessive executive pay cost taxpayers an estimated $14.4 billion per year — $46 for every American man, woman, and child,” writes the IPS. “That amount could also cover the annual cost of hiring 211,732 elementary-school teachers or creating 241,593 clean-energy jobs.”

Well, we know why y’all came here… to look at the list:

Abbott Laboratories
Miles D. White
$586 million tax refund

Advanced Micro Devices
Rory P. Read
$3 million tax refund

John P. Daane
$22 million paid in taxes

Robert H. Benmosche
$208 million tax refund

Anadarko Petroleum
James T. Hackett
$381 million tax refund

Randall L. Stephenson
$420 million tax refund

W. James McNerney Jr.
$605 million tax refund

Scott A. McGregor
$0 taxes paid

Chesapeake Energy
Aubrey Kerr McClendon
$13 million paid in taxes

Vikram S. Pandit
$144 million tax refund

Cooper Industries
Kirk S. Hachigian
$29 million tax refund

H. Lawrence Culp Jr.
$6 million tax refund

Devon Energy
John Richels
$143 million tax refund

Anthony J. Alexander
$243 million tax refund

Ford Motor
Alan Mulally
$4 million tax refund

David J. Lesar
$1.026 billion tax refund

International Paper
John V. Faraci
$78 million tax refund

Leucadia National
Ian Cumming
$0 paid in taxes

Marathon Oil
Clarence P. Cazalot Jr.
$29,911,662 239
$210 million tax refund

Marsh & McLennan
Brian Duperreault
$7 million paid in taxes

Motorola Mobility
Sanjay K. Jha
$0 paid in taxes

Motorola Solutions
Gregory Q. Brown
$2 million paid in taxes

Newell Rubbermaid
Michael B. Polk
$37 million tax refund
Marc R. Benioff
$9 million paid in taxes

Travelers Companies
Jay S. Fishman
$176 million tax refund

Tyco International
Edward D. Breen
$4 million tax refund


Edit Your Comment

  1. sir_eccles says:

    So, where’s the list of the top companies who got the biggest tax refunds from the government AND created the most jobs?

    I feel something trickling, not sure what it is.

  2. Bsamm09 says:

    So…A bunch of companies had a net loss for the year and carried it back to a profitable year to claim a refund? And they actually paid their CEOs?!?

    Get right out of town.

    • AcctbyDay says:

      I think the tax code is a jumble of idiocy, and yet here I am a tax preparer. However, I would like to point out that a company getting a refund in the current year means diddly for comparison. They overpaid their taxes, they could have had a tax bill. This article is going for shock and not accuracy.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        This article is going for shock and not accuracy.


      • wade says:

        I think the tax code is a jumble of idiocy

        I agree.

        a company getting a refund in the current year means diddly for comparison


        This article is going for shock and not accuracy.

        You don’t say???

        By your passing mention that you are a tax preparer, I would guess that you would be more qualified to write an actual informative (as opposed to sensational) report on tax liability vs. executive compensation. In the “About the Authors” section, you can see that one author actually has a professional accreditation to his name, and that is being a CFA charterholder. I’m certain that if any of the authors was a CPA or had some kind of tax background that wasn’t limited to editing a “weekly newsletter on excess and inequality,” it would have been emboldened, italicized, and underlined.

      • Not Given says:

        One person’s jumble of idiocy = another (or even the same) person’s job security

      • meh_cat says:

        No. These companies are getting refunds because they lost money last year, and used that to offset taxes paid in previous years, not because they “overpaid” taxes. It’s shocking that their companies did so poorly they were able to get a tax refund (because the government felt sorry about their poor performance) and yet they still got paid.

  3. dolemite says:

    I wish we could find out average employee pay, and raises over the years in relation to CEO pay and company profits and taxes paid. THEN we could make an analysis about “job creators aren’t hiring because their taxes are too high”. Because I have a feeling that whole “if we lower taxes further on the rich, they’ll FINALLY start hiring” (when their taxes right now are already insanely low compared to previous years) is a load of crap.

    • Auron says:

      But the economy is tough….our company can’t afford to hire more workers or give raises to the ones we already have. Matter of fact, we need to tighten our belt even further and institute company wide wage freezes at the minimum, but probably need to actually cut wages and benefits….yanno, for the good of the company…..

      • xjeyne says:

        It’s all about cutting payroll. They make the salaried employees carry 50+ hours per week on their backs and cut hours for hourly employees.

        • crispyduck13 says:

          That’s pretty much what’s happening in my corner. Add in ‘cutting hourly employees’ and you’d be right on.

  4. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Today’s episode of Class Envy Theater brought to you by the left wing “think tank”, Institute for Policy Studies.

    • sagodjur1 says:

      Class envy would imply that everyone wants to be the person at the top ripping everyone else off. Fortunately, not everyone in the world is that selfish.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        So according to you, because there’s one person in the world who is not that selfish (you I presume), there is no such thing as class envy.

        • crispyduck13 says:

          You know no one here said anything about class envy until you brought it up. Not the original post and none of the commenters. It’s just factual information to be interpreted as you wish.

          • TheMansfieldMauler says:

            Factual information that leaves out a lot of details about how those tax numbers were arrived at… i.e. taking tax credits against previous year losses, accelerated depreciation from investment in capital assets, and a hundred other ways a company can and should reduce their tax liabilities.

            Just saying, “Look, EvilCorp paid their CEO 10 million and didn’t even pay taxes” is deceptive at best.

            • MutantMonkey says:

              Odd, when I type “evil” into the search, your post is the only thing that is flagged.

              It seems to me that you immediately assume that most people will take this article as more than just data, which is all it is. Just because you think very little of most of the posters here doesn’t mean they/we are idiots.

              • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                It seems to me that you immediately assume that most people will take this article as more than just data, which is all it is.

                Deceptive and incomplete data. If you already knew that, good for you. Go get yourself a cookie.

                • MutantMonkey says:

                  What do you mean deceptive? These are just data points with absolutely zero negative or positive context.

                  And the data is incomplete?!?! You mean companies do not work off the two sets of numbers that we are seeing in this article?!?! Wow, who would have though business finances could have been more complicated? /s

            • crispyduck13 says:

              You prove over and over on this site that you only see the world through your green colored glasses and the way you see it is obviously the only way it can be interpreted. I make a conscious effort not associate with people like you in real life.

              You were the kid in college Bio 101 lecture who kept arguing with the professor about the legitimacy of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and pissing everyone off. You just wouldn’t let yourself be open to learning anything, because you already knew it all.

              • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                Ad hominem attacks have no effect on me and only make you look bad. Feel free to continue using them.

                • crispyduck13 says:

                  According to my opinion of you me looking bad in your eyes means I look effin great in real life.

                  Carry on.

            • meh_cat says:

              And what about the Republicans saying that 50% of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes while ignoring the federal payroll taxes that takes a 9% bite out of the middle class and working poor? In any event, did you consider the “details about how those tax numbers were arrived at”? If the law allowed them to pay no taxes through a bunch of loopholes, is it “class envy” to close those loopholes?

              Let’s be honest. You’re just a dupe with Stockholm Syndrome. You are a sheep owned by the wealthy.

              • aerodawg says:

                Because, surprise surpise, those are not federal income taxes, at least according to the people who say they’re an absolute necessity. Those are “payroll taxes” used to fund the “retirement” entitlements that the middle class and working poor loooooove and will depend on when they get old.

                All they’re doing is funding their “retirement plan” that they want, same as I do with my 401k.

            • MarkFL says:

              I’m not sure about that — if they didn’t pay any taxes (or perhaps you prefer “didn’t owe any taxes” for fiscal 2011), it means something. In fact, more than getting a tax refund, because as mentioned elsewhere, we don’t know if they are taking a credit from previous years.

              What I’m waiting for is a list of companies whose top executives made more in salary and bonuses than the companies made in the same year.

              And yes, I know perfectly well what I just said…

        • MutantMonkey says:

          So your initial comment was directed at the one person who does suffer from class envy?

          • TheMansfieldMauler says:

            No. It was directed at people who don’t realize what the purpose of this “report” really is.

            • MutantMonkey says:

              I’ve been seeing these articles for a couple years and never once has “class envy” come to mind. They have always struck me as a bit of perspective on how much companies are paying into the tax system, those who could be exploiting loopholes and those that appear to be paying taxes.

              Just because you take these articles to mean one thing doesn’t mean your point of view is some groundbreaking revelation that the rest of the population should be aware of. It simply means you take these articles to mean one, close minded thing.

            • crispyduck13 says:

              The only people who think this is about class envy/warfare are simplistic tools who like to stir shit up and prevent useful conversation (via keyboard but whatever).

              This is about large successful businesses having the money to pay an army of accountants to research every single tax loophole in our screwed up tax system so the company can then keep more of their profits. The CEO pay is an example of what those companies are doing with that money, since they obviously aren’t giving people raises or hiring. That is the topic, if you can’t get on board then how about you jump off?

              • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                Because the article doesn’t say, you have no idea how those companies arrived at those tax numbers. As I said above, there are plenty of perfectly legal (not loophole) ways a company can have a tax refund or a reduction in tax liabilities, including:

                Tax refund from previous year loss

                Tax reduction from investment in capital assets and the associated depreciation

                Tax reduction from loss in value of stocks, bonds, real property

                etc. etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

                But of course this report says nothing about any of that. All it says is “OMG company didn’t pay taxes whargarrrbl!”

                Yeah, they didn’t pay taxes this year. That hardly gives the full picture.

                • crispyduck13 says:

                  Loopholes are not illegal. That’s why they’re called loopholes and not “lying on your taxes.” I for one assumed that of course they are getting those refunds because of loopholes. A lot of people would assume that. You assume that everyone who isn’t you is an idiot.

                  • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                    If loopholes are legal, then what’s the problem? You brought them up. Of course a company is going to find every loophole. Why shouldn’t they?

                    • sagodjur1 says:

                      Because legal doesn’t equal moral. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.

                      Laws can be bought. Laws can be poorly worded. Laws can be corrupted by misinterpretation in the courts. Laws can be obsolete. Laws can be well-intentioned at their inception but have unforeseen negative consequences. Laws can be intentionally written for the benefit of wealthy corporations.

                    • dangermike says:


                      Legality and morality are interesting additions to the topic (unfortunately, at this depth of thread, I don’t think there will be further discussion).

                      Basically, every one of those executives listed has a moral and legal fiduciary duty to the equity investors, members of the boards, stockholders, etc. to be sure that their shares of the company are profitable. To know that a significant savings can be made by hiring a tax attorney and to not do so would be negligent.

                    • sagodjur1 says:


                      While those are certainly the job duties of these executives, I would argue that their greater moral duty is to the society in which they live, specifically the duty not to exploit legal loopholes solely for the profits of investors, thereby leaving others in society who can’t afford to hire tax attorneys or to lobby congressmen directly for their own benefit and can’t pay as much in taxes to carry more of the tax burden. Nobody is suggesting they shouldn’t hire a tax attorney. I’m just suggesting that they pay their fair share of taxes because they didn’t build the society that they’re operating in.

                    • meh_cat says:

                      Good job missing the point. If loopholes are allowing huge companies to avoid paying taxes, then we should close those loopholes. There’s no way these companies are not making money that “should” be taxed if they are paying their CEOs tens of millions of dollars.

                    • MarkFL says:

                      Yes, loopholes are legal. However, they go against the intent of the law or rule in question. Closing the loophole does NOT constitute a tax increase as many on the Right like to call it.

                      Consider it this way: If there were a loophole in the unemployment law that allowed me to collect unemployment while working 39 hours per week at $12 per hour, the typical person would not blink if a bill were introduced to to close the loophole, and you would in all likelihood call me an unemployment cheat, and rightly so. Closing that loophole is hailed as welfare reform.

                      But here you are saying that if a multibillion-dollar corporation is able to claim a huge tax because of a loophole they should take it, and you criticize others who accuse the company of being less than forthright. And the Tea Party Gang calls it a “tax increase.”

                    • dangermike says:

                      Please define “Fair Share.” Chances are, if it anything other than flat, across-the-board transaction tax (comprising all forms of taxation, be it income, sales, property, or otherwise), then in all likelihood, it is no longer fair. A fair tax would be to say, for instance, that with a federal budget of 3.6 Trillion and a GDP of 15 Trillion, then every time any money changes hands, 24% of the value of that transaction should be remitted. Anything else would be either regressively or progressively rated, and inherently not fair.

                • MutantMonkey says:

                  “Yeah, they didn’t pay taxes this year. That hardly gives the full picture.”

                  You keep stating the obvious. We know this already. Are you looking for a cookie because you understand what most of us have understood since the Consumerist started posting these articles?

                  • TheMansfieldMauler says:

                    You keep stating that I’m stating the obvious. So then you and I agree on everything I said. So what’s the problem?

                    Are you so thin skinned that you’re insulted when someone types something you already know?

                    Jeez, you must get mad when you buy something and it comes with instructions. Do you yell at the back of the Windex bottle to let it know you already understand how to clean a window?

                    • MutantMonkey says:

                      No, I pointed out a specific part that is obvious. Your original point, I do not agree with at all. Try again.

    • Applekid says:

      I’m having class envy right now watching some of these coeds walk by my window.

      Is it just me or has commenting been really heated and aggressive lately? Is it my imagination or is it just because the election is coming soon?

    • frodolives35 says:

      The troll is full(of it) please do not feed the troll they only get more full(of it).

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    David J. Lesar
    $1.026 billion tax refund

    I’m gonna go throw up now.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Lets do a bit of research…

      Lets go to their annual report: and click on 2011.

      Go all the way down to page 87 of their annual financial statements and lets look at line “Provision for income taxes”. Oh look, its negative. That means they incurred income taxes for the year to the tune of $1.4 billion (granted, this is in corporate accounting speak, all sorts of things could be going on under that, but this is what they owe)

      So how does that jive with their refund? Well, if I owe you $1.4 billion but when we come to settle up, you return $1 billion, what does that mean?

      • dangermike says:

        Nice link. Looking at the 2011 annual report, it shows income before income taxes for 2009, 2010, and 2011 (in millions) at 1682, 2655, and 4449, respectively, with income tax liabilities of 518, 853, and 1439. Given their rate of growth, it seems probable to have mis-projected and be due a refund for overpayment.

  6. oldwiz65 says:

    These hugely profitable corporations should be paying a minimum tax. The CEOs should be ashamed of themselves when people are homeless and hungry in the U.S.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      *sigh* Look at Halliburton above. They are paying taxes… this isn’t explaining that many times there is a timing difference of that they have overpaid for the current year…

      This is why I HATE corporate income taxes. Its damn near impossible to explain how a corporation is actually taxed.

  7. SharkD says:

    I’ve been wondering: if corporations are people (my friend), who decides which corporation is a boy and which is a girl? You know, in case two corporations want to get married and have 2.4 spin-offs.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Corporations aren’t allowed to get “married” in this country, they “conglomerate.”

      • MarkFL says:

        This is often referred to informally as a marriage. Perhaps it is a common-law marriage?

        Sometimes they even get divorced (AOL & Time-Warner, CBS & Viacom, Pepsico & what is now called Yum Foods, and Sears is now working out a divorce, too.)

  8. jojo319 says:

    OK, so people WANT government to “create” jobs. One way they TRY to do this is by giving tax breaks to large companies. Then, when they get tax breaks, everybody cries foul.

    • Auron says:

      Because a lot of the large corporations won’t use the money from the tax breaks to give money to the people who will spend it. It gets tied up in giving bonuses to the top level executives, tell the shareholders that the value of their investment has increased by a larger amount than predicted, and grow the company coffers. All while freezing or reducing wages/benefits, not hiring more people, and in some cases, actually laying people off because the company is in dire financial straits.

    • dolemite says:

      Well the problem is taxes are lower now than they have been in a very long time (capital gains, the marginal rate, etc.), but….still no hiring? Profits and wealth are up up up, but…no jobs? No raises? So if taxes are down, profits are up, CEO and other executive pay is up up up…when do we start with the “Job creation” we’ve been hearing so much about since the Reagan days? All we’ve seen is the wealth of the rich has grown over 300% in that time period vs 40% for everyone else (and within the past 10 years, salaries have actually declined for the middle class). It’s pretty obvious what is going on here.

  9. Polish Engineer says:

    Please tell me it’s a typo that the Marathon Oil CEO made 30 billion…

    • MarkFL says:

      Has to be. There’s no way the CEO of Marathon Oil made almost 500 times what anyone else on the list made.

  10. momoftwokids says:

    Anyone else notice there isn’t a single woman’s name on the whole list?

  11. Guppy06 says:

    AMD? Might be time for me to start buying Intel again.

    • NorthAlabama says:

      please don’t…i didn’t care to see amd’s name on the list either, but there has to be competition to curtail intel’s questionable business practices, and amd is the only other viable alternative.

      i’m amd all the way, and have been for almost 15 years…

  12. NorthAlabama says:

    no wonder the top 1% of this nations earners want lower taxes…according to this, they should be getting millions in refunds!

  13. mstrmike says:

    I’ll agree that this isn’t about greed or envy. You don’t envy someone that you know has worked harder, been smarter, or been more creative. You respect them. But if you’re working near minimum wage you do ask if anyone on this list is working 1,000 times harder or smarter than you are. If the answer is no, then it might as well be a lottery or a good ol’ boys club. What is galling is the failure of the winners to realize that they’ve been touched by circumstance, not the angels.

    • Kuri says:

      What about those who are born into it or inherited the company, meaning they did little in it’s creation.

  14. dangermike says:

    “That amount could also cover the annual cost of hiring 211,732 elementary-school teachers or creating 241,593 clean-energy jobs”

    14,400,000,000 / 211,732 = 68,011. That might cover the wage but wages are not the entire cost of hiring. That will not cover facilities, medical benefits, pension benefits, support staff, or administration. In the real world (or here in California, anyway) that number would be more like 60,000 – 70,000.

    Similarly, with the green energy jobs figure, they’re suggesting 59,600 per job. First, if that’s the wage, I’d like to sign up. I have a technical degree and a manager title and that would be a step up. the figures I’ve heard is that for the number of “green jobs” created versus the amount of spending to create them, it’s more like $250,000 – $300,000 per job even if the job itself is some $35,000/year clerical or technician work.

  15. lexpost says:

    With the CEO’s penchant for outsourcing jobs to increase profitability, these companies could bump up their profits (and/or) cut their losses by a couple of hundred million dollars simply by outsourcing their CEO’s.

  16. Mark says:

    Hoping the citizens rise up, not likely, and destroy the American government. I tried occupy wall-street and the police are in the government pockets. Nice, pay checks, great dental, ability to avoid parking and speeding tickets….yeah…hypocrisy.

  17. Extended-Warranty says:

    Ridiculous CEO salaries aside, everyone knows that 80% of the current generation of workers make more than their parents did (adjusted for inflation), right?

  18. luxosaucer13 says:

    My big question, and I’m sure I’m gonna get all sorts of responses from Tea Partiers and supply-siders out there, is why ANY of these companies are getting ANY sort of tax refunds. If they can afford to pay their CEOs 8 figures a year, they can damn well fork out some dough to the treasury too.

    Imagine: the US could offer REAL universal healthcare that could be provided to all citizens of this country if corporations all paid their fair share in taxes, instead of lining politicians’ pockets and pushing the tax burden off onto the middle class.

  19. BettyCrocker says:

    Am I missing something here? What does a tax refund have to do with how much they paid in taxes?

    Thing about it. You may or may not get a tax refund – due to your overpayment or underpayment of the actual amount you owe. A refund does not necessarily mean you’ve paid zero taxes. (although it could).

    Is that what this article is saying? These companies paid no taxes at all and, in fact, got a large refund on top of that?

    • lexpost says:

      There is a provision in the tax code called NOL (net operating loss). It allows otherwise profitable companies to take a loss in one year and apply it to past and future tax years and reduce or eliminate tax liabilities in those profitable years.

  20. Mambru says:

    25 CEO’s not even 1 woman on the list, Unless Aubery is a female name.

  21. soj4life says:

    Wait, Halliburton got a billion dollar tax refund

  22. David Munson says:

    There is a strong movement to shift the tax burden to the low-end consumer from business. It’s not going to stop any time soon.

    • MarkFL says:

      Yeah, because if you’re not in the 1%, it’s because you’re a lazy, wealth-redistributing socialist who wants to punish people for their success. Or so I hear.