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New Ad Targets Nike for Paying Zero Taxes

A new ad calling on Nike to pay federal taxes is part of a broader campaign by Tax March to support Pres. Biden's plan to raise corporate tax rates.


(Image: Graphic courtesy

A new ad targeting NIKE for lobbying against corporate tax hikes -- while paying nothing in federal taxes -- is being published Wednesday in a newspaper based just ten miles from NIKE headquarters.

Tax March, a progressive group that last week launched a broader campaign supporting Pres. Biden's efforts to raise corporate taxes, provided the ad to The Young Turks in advance of its publication. The Tax March campaign kicked off with a video ad focused on FedEx.

The new ad, to appear in the Oregon alternative newspaper Willamette Week, features the NIKE logo and a banner reading, "Just Pay It," a twist on NIKE's "Just Do It" slogan. The text below calls out NIKE for lobbying against a corporate tax hike -- despite pulling in $2.9 billion in profits last year and paying nothing in federal income taxes. In fact, the ad says, "they even got a $109 million refund from the federal government."

Tax March advertisement appearing in the April 21, 2021, edition of Willamette Week.

(Image courtesy

In a prepared statement, Tax March Executive Director Maura Quint said, "It's time for Nike to pay its fair share. There's no good reason for any corporation to pay $0 in federal taxes, let alone one that made nearly $3 billion last year."

In a statement to TYT, NIKE did not address the ad's critique of its lobbying on tax policy, but cited its current tax burden. "[W]e comply with tax laws everywhere we do business," the company said.

"NIKE is paying significant U.S. federal, state and local direct and indirect taxes every year," the statement said. "In fact, including customs duties, Nike has paid more than $9.1 billion in U.S. taxes since 2016."

The data that Tax March used comes from estimates by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). An ITEP report tied recent corporate tax windfalls to both the Trump tax cuts and provisions of last year's coronavirus relief bill.

In its statement to TYT, NIKE confirmed the impact of the Trump tax cuts. "NIKE’s tax obligations in the U.S. are based on several factors, including the investments made in the U.S., which fuel growth around the world, and changes in tax law resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017," NIKE said.

"NIKE is paying $1.1 billion in transition taxes through 2025 imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. To date, NIKE has paid nearly $300 million of those transition taxes," the statement concluded.

The ITEP wrote on Monday that NIKE's public response to the campaign is "misleading." For one thing, some of NIKE's reported tax payments include Trump's steep discounted rate on years worth of overseas profits.

In Tax March's anti-FedEx ad, the group refers to the fact that the tax hikes are intended to fund infrastructure and other spending to boost the national economy. "[F]or FedEx, paying nothing in federal taxes matters more than investing in us," the ad says.

In response to that ad, FedEx did not dispute the federal tax data, but told CNBC that the company paid $9 billion in federal, state, local, payroll, and individual income taxes, as well as customs duties. A spokeswoman told CNBC that "new tax laws [helped] companies like FedEx make additional investments in its people...adding new jobs..."

While it's true that FedEx's headcount has increased in recent years, the causes are unclear. Some companies increase overall headcount by buying smaller firms -- resulting in net job losses when redundant positions are eliminated. Shipping firms generally also saw business skyrocket last year when the pandemic hit.

In 2017, a TYT investigation revealed that FedEx was pouring millions into cutting jobs even as it worked to support Pres. Trump's claim that his tax cuts would create jobs.

Specifically, TYT reported that FedEx was spending billions on capital expenditures including drones and other automation. Local tax breaks, TYT found, had done little to spur job creation by FedEx.

And FedEx didn't seem to need the tax cuts in order to create jobs -- the company was sitting on billions of dollars in cash and paying handsome rewards to its executives and shareholders.

Tax March has paused its FedEx ad out of respect for last week's mass shooting at a company facility.

The broader campaign is targeted at bolstering support for Pres. Biden's proposal to raise the corporate tax rate back to 28 percent. On Sunday, however, Axios reported that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and other Democrats are unhappy about that number and expect it to come down to 25 percent, which would cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars worth of fixed roads and bridges, as well as construction and other jobs.

"Oregonians know that Nike, a company that uses vast amounts of public resources in their state, needs to contribute like the rest of us do," Quint, the Tax March executive director, said in her statement. "One solid step in that direction is to raise the federal corporate tax rate to at least 28 percent, if not back to the 35 percent level it was before the 2017 GOP tax scam."

Trump's tax cuts, and his refusal to release his own taxes, were early causes for Tax March, which began in 2017. The group is part of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not reveal its donors, but has supported Democratic causes and partners with progressive organizations.

Jonathan Larsen is TYT’s managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.

With additional research and reporting by TYT Investigates News Assistant Zoltan Lucas and Intern Jamia Zarzuela, and assistance from members of the TYT Army.

If you have tips on this subject or others you can contact us using Proton Mail at [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to stay on top of exclusive news stories from The Young Turks.

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