I recently saw this Occupy Democrats claim on Facebook:

In one year, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 a year pays: $36 toward food stamps, $6 for other safety net programs, $870 for corporate subsidies, $1600 to offset corporate tax loopholes, and $1231 to offset losses from corporate overseas tax havens. WE CAN AFFORD TO HELP THE POOR, NOT CORPORATE WELFARE. Sources: The Tax Foundation, Citizens for Tax Justice

Now, obviously a lot of those categories are vague and open to interpretation (I've known people who would argue most of the U.S. defense budget is "corporate subsidies"), but are any of these claims true with even vaguely-reasonable definitions?

I couldn't find it on the websites of Occupy Democrats or the two sources cited in the image.

  • 3
    Note that the numbers in red are basically corporate tax payments not made, i.e. they are what-if's. This makes it difficult to source them authoritatively.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 14, 2019 at 13:01
  • @DevSolar - I think all three of those can be quantified. The data for the first two, if it exists, would be compiled by having identified the relevant regulations/laws that they're calling subsidies and loopholes and then applying that information to corporate activity and tax returns. Tax havens abroad might be harder. :-) Aug 14, 2019 at 13:08
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    Is this federal taxes or all income taxes?
    – gerrit
    Aug 14, 2019 at 13:10
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    @gerrit - One of many questions it leaves open. :-) Aug 14, 2019 at 13:11
  • @T.J.Crowder: I'd consider that "too broad", but will withhold a close vote as US tax law isn't something I feel comfortable to judge either way.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 14, 2019 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


The last three numbers seem to be based on the same data as this Common Dreams article:

  1. $870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies

    We've heard a lot about tax avoidance and tax breaks for the super-rich. With regard to corporations alone, the Tax Foundation has concluded that their "special tax provisions" cost taxpayers over $100 billion per year, or $870 per family. Corporate benefits include items such as Graduated Corporate Income, Inventory Property Sales, Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, Accelerated Depreciation, and Deferred taxes.

    Once again, it may be even worse. Citizens for Tax Justice cite a Government Accountability Office report that calculated a loss to the Treasury of $181 billion from corporate tax expenditures. That would be almost $1,600 per family.

  2. $1,231 for Revenue Losses from Corporate Tax Havens

    U.S. PIRG recently reported that the average 2012 taxpayer paid an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost from offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. With 138 million taxpayers (1.2 per household), that comes to $1,231 per household.

Note that this double counts corporate tax subsidies as corporate subsidies and tax loopholes based on the figures from two different sources. It should be either $870 or $1600, not both.

That source doesn't use a $50,000 family. The values are calculated by dividing the total cost by the number of households.

It's also questionable whether the average taxpayer "pays" taxes to offset any of this. The federal government external deficit in 2012 was over $1 trillion. Even if they could somehow collect this amount of money, it still wouldn't have offset the deficit that year.

I didn't find a real reference for the food stamp numbers. Here is a forum post that seems to link to an article. But the article is gone and does not appear on archive.org. I suspect that that was the original source, as the numbers and description match. But without the article, it's hard to evaluate it. Perhaps there is a paper archive of a newspaper that could be checked if someone knew what newspaper used the examiner.com domain.

In 2018, the cost of the food stamps program was $68 billion. Using the same calculation method as with the other numbers, this would make it around $600 a family. So this number does not seem to be comparable to the other numbers. They seem to have mixed different calculation methods.

For safety net, I would just point out that federal spending on Medicaid was $629.3 billion in 2018 and $431 billion in 2012. That's considerably more than the food stamp number, suggesting that they weren't including it in their other safety net number that is smaller. Ignoring the single largest program does not bode well for their other numbers.

  • Regarding your point on Medicaid, Social Security could also be listed.
    – user11643
    Aug 15, 2019 at 0:48
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    @fredsbend I'm defining "safety net" to be means-tested programs. Medicaid is means-tested (meaning that it is available to people who meet criteria of low income and potentially wealth). Social Security and Medicare are not means-tested, so I wouldn't count them as safety net programs, even though one of the purposes is to avoid allowing people who worked their whole lives to be stuck in absolute poverty in retirement. Leaving off Medicaid is misleading. Leaving off Social Security/Medicare is reasonable. At least IMO.
    – Brythan
    Aug 15, 2019 at 11:09
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    @Brythan of course to complicate matters, part of SS is disability insurance which is a safety net. Aug 15, 2019 at 15:24
  • I'd also point out that the 16000 was for "corporate tax expenditures" in the source you cited, which is different then 'tax loopholes', unless you believe every possible corporate tax expenditure, even the ones designed to encourage positive behaviors in companies such as more green use of energy and providing better safety to employees, to be a tax loophole.
    – dsollen
    Aug 15, 2019 at 17:59
  • For "tax subsidies", does this mean the government is actually giving money to companies, or does it just mean that they're not collecting quite as much tax from the companies? If the latter is the case, it's also a little weird to claim people are paying that amount.
    – Rob Watts
    Aug 15, 2019 at 21:10

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