ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and other oil companies are paying negative taxes on huge profits. Sheldon Whitehouse, Ro Khanna, and other Democrats in Congress propose a windfall tax to change that.

By Kate Aronoff, The New Republic

As gas prices climbed to over $4 per gallon in the United States and oil traded at highs of $130 per barrel this week amid war in Europe, a new report from the U.K.-based think tank Common Wealth finds that the top five oil and gas producers in the U.S. are getting a wildly good deal from the U.S. government: While they rake in massive profits, their tax burden remains shockingly low. Since the Paris Agreement was signed, top producers have, on average, gotten money back from the IRS. Thursday afternoon, a group of congressional Democrats—led by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate, and Representative Ro Khanna in the House—announced a bill to help change that, proposing to levy a tax on fossil fuel companies’ windfall profits.

“Big Oil is raking in record profits while working families are struggling to afford gas at the pump. What we are seeing right now is a prime example of corporate greed and companies profiting off an international crisis,” Khanna said over email. The bill, he added, is aimed at putting “a stop to this corporate profiteering by raising revenue off the windfall profits of these companies and returning the money directly to working Americans.”

3d illustration of oil pump jacks and financial analytics charts and bars on sunset sky background.

The new Common Wealth report backs this up. Analyzing data from financial databases Bloomberg Terminal, Compustat, and Thomson Reuters Eikon, researchers Sandy Hagar and Joseph Baines found that according to Compustat and corporate 10-K filings required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, and Devon Energy altogether got $1.95 billion back in domestic taxes between 2015 and 2022. The same companies paid $77.2 billion to foreign governments over the same period.

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