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Angry US taxpayers stamp on companies paying no corporate tax

Messages on dollar bills point the finger at tax avoiders

Last year, General Electric reported worldwide profits of .2bn (£8.9bn). How much was the federal corporate tax bill for America’s largest firm? Nada, nothing, zilch, zero. It was not alone. Bank of America trousered a 6bn bailout in 2009 but paid no federal corporate tax in 2010.

Now furious American taxpayers are taking note of corporate tax avoidance – by defacing dollar bills. Stamp activism is a growing phenomenon, with photographs of the scrawled-on and rubber-stamped notes spreading across social media.

“This is more than GE has paid in taxes,” says one message. Others deface George Washington with scrawled remarks from “This is more than the Bandits of America (BOA) paid in taxes” to “Tax the rich, Save yo gramma”. On another PhotoShopped note, “In God we trust” is changed to “In debt we trust”. Occasionally the protest veers off message: on one buck, “God” is replaced with “the Dude” after Jeff Bridges’s stoner character in The Big Lebowski.

The protesters’ facts are disputed – companies such as Exxon Mobil say they pay a lot of tax internationally as well as state and local taxes – and banks quickly withdraw graffiti-strewn notes (one protester pointed out it would be better to deface notes as these tend to stay in circulation for longer). But stamp activism is likely to flourish as long as the marginalised majority is confronted by big companies paying much less than the standard 35% US corporate tax rate.

Will the protest spread to Britain? We have more than our fair share of bankers to bash and tax-avoiding corporations. Unfortunately, writing on bank notes is illegal. So every time you stamp “We’re all in this together” or “In Fred the Shred we trust” on a fiver, be warned, you could be prosecuted and fined £200. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds