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The Walmart Tax Every American Taxpayer Pays

The Walmart Tax Every American Taxpayer Pays
Lonnie Sheppard, Guest Columnist 7:06 a.m. ET April 8, 2017

Every year, hardworking men and women all across the country face the harsh reality of paying their taxes. While the average American family has less than $1,000 in savings and nearly half have no retirement savings, in 2015, the average household paid $13,000 in income taxes. For so many Americans, this time of year is met with anxiety, fear, and anger as too many people struggle to pay their day-to-day bills, let alone their taxes.
But what should fuel hard-working, tax-paying Americans’ anger, is the fact that so many of their tax dollars are being used year after year to support one of the nation’s largest welfare recipients – Walmart. A company with annual profits that averaged $15.5 billion over the last five years.
Simply put, every American taxpayer is paying a tax they never heard of: The Walmart Tax.
What is the Walmart Tax?

According to a 2014 report by Americans for Tax Fairness, Walmart receives an estimated $6.2 billion in subsidies every year, primarily from the Federal Government.

The reason? The world’s largest retailer, infamous for its poor working conditions and unfair treatment of employees, pays its workers so little that thousands of Walmart employees are forced to rely on public assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing. Programs funded by American taxpayers.

No matter the town or city, if you have a Walmart in your community, you are paying a Walmart Tax. In fact, a single Walmart Supercenter is estimated to cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.74 million per year in public assistance money.

For Walmart, this represents tens of millions of dollars in savings, all on the backs of America’s taxpayers and workers.

In Tennessee, Walmart’s failure to do what is right costs taxpayers an estimated $169.8 million annually for its employees’ public assistance (as of 2014). In August 2014, a new Walmart opened up at the University Commons development in Knoxville, Tennessee. That development received a 25-year, $10 million tax increment financing incentive, as well as a $1.5 million grant from the city. Given the difficult fiscal choices our state faces, it is outrageous that a company this wealthy would ask Tennessee taxpayers to subsidize its operations.

Regardless of whether you shop at Walmart, every American taxpayer pays this “hidden tax.” And, who benefits from The Walmart Tax? Not our community, our schools, our state, or even our country. Who actually benefits is Walmart, a company that generates almost $500 billion in revenue every year.

Now, Walmart will say it spent $500 million on hourly associate bonuses and claim that it recently boosted employee wages. Assuming this, it makes you wonder why so many of their workers and their families depend on government programs, and your tax dollars, to survive.

Walmart brags about its low prices, but what it doesn’t advertise is that it’s the American taxpayer – and worker – who help pay the actual cost of these so-called “low prices.”

With billions in profits,Walmart can easily do the right thing and pay its workers a better wage. Logically, if Walmart increased employee wages, and/or provided better benefits, much of the burden would be lifted off the taxpayer. Unfortunately, Walmart has chosen a path that is cheaper for the company and lines the pockets of the Waltons, while taxpayers, once again, are stuck footing the bill.

And if Walmart really wants to convince the American people that it is doing the right thing, then it should voluntarily provide what workers in each store and each community get paid. Sadly, Walmart will never do that.

April 18, 2017, might be tax day, but it should really be the day we think about the Walmart Tax and the brutal reality that Walmart’s low prices come with a hidden and high cost we all pay
Lonnie Sheppard is president of UFCW Local 1529 in Memphis.

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