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Tesla Didn’t Pay Any Federal Income Taxes for 5 Years, Got $1 Million Tax Refund

Tesla, the company helmed by one of the richest men on the planet, is a cheapskate when it comes to paying taxes, according to a new report released on Wednesday. In fact, the company paid exactly $0 in federal income taxes over the past five years and even managed to get a nice refund.

The data on Tesla’s tax bills comes via an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness, also known as ATF, a project that advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy. While it was previously known that Tesla didn’t pay taxes early in its lifetime because it was unprofitable, it’s notable that the company has continued to avoid paying in recent years—even when it’s turned a profit.

The AFT’s report analyzed the tax bills of 64 companies, including Tesla, in its report from 2018 to 2022. Tesla earned its first full-year profit in 2020 and was also profitable in 2021 and 2022. The company earned $4.4 billion in profit in the five years analyzed for the report and received a tax refund of $1 million.

While this might seem confusing, the ATF explains that the main reason Tesla continues to avoid tax bills is that “companies are allowed to ‘carry forward’ excess losses to years with profits, with the old losses canceling out current earnings.” However, the AFT points out that it believes Tesla is employing “accounting schemes” to keep dodging taxes.

“For instance, despite the fact that during the five-year period under study roughly half of all Tesla’s revenue came from the United States, domestic earnings accounted for less than a quarter of its worldwide income,” the ATF writes. “That implies the company is shifting American profits to offshore tax havens, a frequently used corporate tax-dodging strategy.”

The report also highlights that while Tesla may not want to pay taxes, it’s more than happy to bestow riches on Elon Musk, its CEO. Tesla paid Musk $2.5 billion during the period analyzed for the report, with the majority paid out in stock options. Furthermore, the ATF highlights that Tesla is happy to receive government subsidies, grants, and loans for its business, even though it doesn’t like paying taxes.

Gizmodo reached out to Tesla for comment on the report on Thursday morning but did not receive a response. Musk disbanded Tesla’s PR department years ago, so we don’t expect one.

Musk has made a big deal in recent years about paying more taxes than any American in history. He paid roughly $11 billion in 2022 (though only after he came under fire for not paying any taxes in previous years). Overall, Musk can virtue signal all he wants about what a good taxpayer he is, but it won’t mean anything if the rest of the companies he leads continue to skimp on their bills.

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