Tax breaks for polluters growing more expensive

New congressional report reveals $17.8 billion in corporate welfare

provided by Friends of the Earth


ew information released by the nonpartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation shows that tax breaks for polluting industries are estimated to grow to $17.8 billion over the next five years.

The report, "Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 1999-2003," presents new information about the billions in annual tax breaks that reward corporations for polluting air and water, scaring landscapes, and clear cutting forests.

Last year the estimate of polluting tax breaks was $15.3 billion over five years.

The primary industrial beneficiaries of these environmentally-harmful tax giveaways are oil and gas, mining, timber and agribusiness corporations. Oil and gas tax breaks alone account for close to $11 billion.

These subsidies not only cost ordinary U.S. taxpayers more in taxes, but they stunt the growth of emerging, environmentally friendly energy technologies, which are crucial to sustainable development.

"Santa came early this year for polluting industries," said Gawain Kripke, Director of Economic Campaigns at Friends of the Earth, a national environmental organization working to cut corporate welfare.

"Congress should play Scrooge and cut these dirty tax breaks."

The tax breaks for polluters include:

  • $11 billion for tax breaks and loopholes that subsidize exploration and production activities for the polluting oil and gas industry.
  • $1.9 billion for special tax breaks to the mining industry some of which comes from mining minerals on public lands.
  • $900 million is special provisions for timber companies, driving down the costs of virgin wood products at the expense of recycled goods.
  • $3.9 billion for loopholes intended to benefit small farmers but that primarily benefit large agribusiness.

"Tax loopholes continue to reward corporations that pollute the air and water, drill for oil and gas, and cut down forests," said Brian Dunkiel, Friends of the Earth's Director of Tax Policy.

"It is time to put an end to these unnecessary and harmful subsidies."

Friends of the Earth has tracked corporate welfare for polluters in the tax code since 1995. FOE recently updated Dirty Little Secrets, a report targeting the 15 worst tax breaks for the environment.

Five-year estimate (billions of $) 1997 1998
  Percentage Depletion Allowance $1.5 $1.5
  Expensing Exploration & Develop. $0.2 $0.2
  Reclamation Deduction $0.2 $0.2
Oil and Gas    
  Percentage Depletion Allowance $2.4 $ 2.4
  Enhanced Oil Recovery $0.3 $0.3
  Intangible Drilling Costs $1.0 $2.2
  Nonconventional Fuel Prod. Credit $6.7 $6.2
  Special Tax Treatment of Timber $1.1 $0.9
  Cash Accounting $1.2 $3.0
  Dairy Livestock Expensing $0.8 $0.9
Totals $15.3 $17.8


For more information on these tax provisions, see Friends of the Earth's Dirty Little Secrets report. You can view this report on the world wide web at:

Founded in 1969, Friends of the Earth is a national environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the planet from environmental degradation; preserving biological, cultural and ethnic diversity; and empowering citizens to affect the quality of their environment and their lives