Zoom fails to pay USA federal taxes despite making $660 million last year

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Zoom Video Communications, the company providing a platform used by remote workers and school children across the country during the pandemic, saw its profits increase by more than 4,000 percent last year but paid no federal corporate income tax on those profits.

The company reports that it made $660 million of pre-tax profits for 2020, an exponential increase from its $16 million in pre-tax profits in 2019. The immediate shift to online activity explains the company’s unprecedented income growth. For many, Zoom has become a ubiquitous daily meeting space, both for work, class instruction, family gatherings and evening happy hours.

But why was the company’s income bonanza not matched by at least a token federal tax bill? The main answer appears to be the company’s lavish use of executive stock options. Zoom’s income tax reconciliation says it reduced its worldwide income taxes by $300 million in 2020 using stock-based compensation.

As an ITEP report explains, companies that compensate their leadership with stock options can write off, for tax purposes, huge expenses that far exceed their actual cost. This is a strategy that has been leveraged effectively by virtually every tech giant in the last decade, from Apple to Facebook to Microsoft. Zoom’s success in using stock options to avoid taxes is neither surprising nor (currently) illegal.

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