A new report released by Americans for Tax Fairness reveals the true costs everyday consumers pay for Walmart’s low prices. The company, and specifically the several Walton family members who control it, receive an estimated $7.8 billion per year in tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies.
The Waltons are the wealthiest family in the United States and control a majority of shares in Walmart. Six members of the family are among the 85 wealthiest individuals in the world, a group whose wealth is greater than half of the world’s population. Walmart is also among the largest and most profitable companies on the planet, with $16 billion in profits last year alone.
Despite this extreme prosperity, the company refuses to pay decent wages to its employees, and many are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid. A previous study showed that a single Walmart can cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee for these programs.
This latest report expands on that research to include other hidden costs to taxpayers courtesy of the nation’s wealthiest family, including schemes to avoid paying an estimated $3 billion in taxes. The executive summary highlights examples totaling $7.8 billion in subsidies from American taxpayers:
“Walmart receives an estimated $6.2 billion annually in mostly federal taxpayer subsidies. The reason: Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, healthcare and other taxpayer-funded programs.
Walmart avoids an estimated $1 billion in federal taxes each year. The reason: Walmart uses tax breaks and loopholes, including a strategy known as accelerated depreciation that allows it to write off capital investments considerably faster than the assets actually wear out.
The Waltons avoid an estimated $607 million in federal taxes on their Walmart dividends. The reason: income from investments is taxed at a much lower tax rate than income from salaries and wages.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the report is how much the company costs taxpayers in public assistance for Walmart employees, broken down state by state. Texas taxpayers pay the most, at an estimated $682 million each year for the state’s 154,471 Walmart associates. Washington, D.C., having successfully prevented four of six planned stores from opening, pays the least at an appreciable $2.6 million for only 600 employees.
Estimated Annual Cost of $6.2 Billion in Public Assistance for Walmart Employees, by State
|State||Number of Walmart Employees||Estimated Cost of Public Assistance for Walmart Employees (Millions)|
|Washington, DC||600||$ 2.6|
OUR Walmart, the organization of current and former employees calling for higher wages and better working conditions at Walmart, has organized widespread strikes and protests to bring attention to the company’s reliance on taxpayer programs to subsidize labor costs. Indeed, many members of OUR Walmart have questioned why they must rely on food stamps when they work at the most profitable company in the country. Last year, employees at one store in Canton, Ohio, gained national attention after hosting a holiday canned food drive for each other. Walmart defended its employees for looking out for each other, but as Stephen Colbert pointed out, the company wasn’t much help in actually paying workers enough to make ends meet.
As long as profitable, industry standard–setting employers like Walmart refuse to pay a decent wage, taxpayers will continue to foot the bill. However, two recent victories demonstrate one path to change could come from within the company’s own ranks. More and more low-wage employees are turning to social media to connect with fellow workers and expose abuse at mega retailers. Two recent changes to Walmart’s pregnancy and scheduling policies illustrate that pressure from within could be having an effect. Combined with the outcry of consumers and taxpayers, Walmart may have no choice but to redirect their profits from stock buybacks to the people that stock shelves.