A surprising number of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500, 57, have found ways to pay effective tax rates of zero, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.
Corporate giants such as telecom firm Verizon, drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and power management firm Eaton, all reported effective tax rates of 0% during the past 12 months. The findings underscore that while many companies bellyache about the top federal income tax rate of 35%, in reality, many pay much less than that, says Nick Yee of Gradient Analytics. "Investors hope company management is doing everything they can to generate profit, legally," he says. "But the tax code is gray, and there's often no set guidance."