The phone hacking controversy embroiling Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. led the media titan to scuttle the highly profitable News of the World, but when it comes to raking in profits Murdoch's media empire can still count on one benefactor: the U.S. government.
A Reuters analysis found that News Corp. has nimbly worked the American tax system to gain money rather than lose it: over the past four years, the company's $10.4 billion in profits would in theory yield a tax payment of $3.6 billion. Instead, Murdoch's company earned $4.8 billion in tax refunds, meaning the total amount of corporate income taxes paid after refunds was minus 46 percent.
Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston breaks down Murdoch's maneuvering into a few parts. First, News Corp. has taken advantage of treaties allowing multinational corporations to be flexible with paying their taxes, establishing 152 subsidiaries in tax havens like the Virgin Islands and the Caymans. In 2009, the corporation had $9 billion in untaxed revenue sitting in offshore accounts.
Second, News Corp. has bought foundering companies and written off their tax losses as deductions, something that Johnston notes has drawn the attention of investigators but failed to yield any hearings. Finally, Murdoch's company defers tax payments allows tax obligations to transform over time into gains.
A helpful graph breaks down some of the more complex points, but the overarching message is the same: while his reputation is being tarnished by a scandal involving allegations of pilfering information about the British royal family and dead soldiers, Murdoch's business savvy probably means he isn't going anywhere soon.