Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee looks like a who’s who of tax avoidance

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Research by the St. Paul teachers union shows that UnitedHealth has skirted $71 million in state taxes in just the last five year -- while paying its CEO $31 million. Doug Kline

The fact that the Super Bowl is coming to Minneapolis can be distilled into one word: fabulous. But this year’s game is also becoming a symbol of something slightly less fabulous: Minnesota’s transformation into a welfare office for the tennis club set.

It began with U.S. Bank Stadium. After interest is included, Ole and Lena Citizen will have had more than $1 billion of their wealth redistributed to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf – who had no need to short-arm the check in the first place, since he has an estimated net worth of $5.3 billion.

The new stadium, of course, is what landed us the Super Bowl. NFL tradition dictates the game go to whatever city throws large piles of money at its feet. Yet the league still showed up with its hand out. It asked 10,000 Minnesotans to work as ambassadors for free. This despite $13 billion in revenues last year – and a new $40-million-a-year contract for its commissioner, Roger Goodell.

Now the St. Paul Federation of Teachers has uncloaked even more craven activity. It seems the Super Bowl Host Committee – a who’s who of the state’s most notable corporations – is also a who’s who of companies with alligator arms when it comes to paying state taxes.

Firms like 3M, Boston Scientific, Carlson Companies, and Target compose the committee’s “founding partners.” For a $1.5 million cover charge, they’re given a suite to the game, 20 tickets to the pregrame tailgate party, four tickets to the Taste of the NFL dinner, and other perks that seem strangely thin for the $1.5 million pricetag.

The teachers’ union combed their financial filings. It appears the reason they can wantonly blow corporate funds like a cokehead with a disability settlement is because they’re exceedingly adept at skirting their taxes.

Take Ecolab. It’s holding $2.1 billion in 80 different offshore tax havens from Aruba to Malta. The same goes for 3M, which is housing $1.4 billion in “subsidiaries” spanning Hong Kong to Panama.

By hiding their money offshore, the firms don’t pay Minnesota taxes on the loot. Which translates to hosing the state’s children when it comes to their education.

According to the union, Minnesota’s funding of K-12 education has dropped by $1 billion since 2003, when adjusted for inflation. Forty percent of that has come from Minneapolis and St. Paul’s public schools.

The founding partners aren’t helping, notes the union’s research. All told, the “founding partners” are stiffing the state out of $60 million a year.

Leading the tax avoidance campaign is UnitedHealth. (Motto: “Siphoning every last nickel out of your health care coverage since 1977!”) The teachers say it’s skated on $71.6 million in state taxes in just the last five years.

During that same period, U.S. Bank skirted $56.6 million, while Accenture avoided $42.1 million.
But while Minnesota’s kids are asked to do without, the same is not being asked of the companies’ CEOs, who appear to be a delicate sort unable to handle hardship.

UnitedHealth’s Stephen Hemsley took home a handsome $31.3 million last year. He was followed by U.S. Bank’s Richard Davis ($29.3 million) and Ecolab’s Doug Baker ($25.3 million).

 


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