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Kraft-Heinz’s Crazy Tax Rate
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Readers of the Calcbench blog know that we have been keeping one eye on tax disclosures this spring, as companies continue to report new and interesting implications of the tax reform law Congress enacted last year.

We have quite an interesting example today, from Kraft Heinz Co.

Kraft has a lot to say about tax reform: 1,656 words, plus four detailed charts. The company reconciles its statutory taxes to its effective tax rate in both dollar and percentage terms, so it wins points for being thorough. Still — we have much to unpack here.

Foremost, Kraft gets a huge benefit from reassessing the value of its deferred tax positions. As we noted in a previous post, deferred tax liabilities become more valuable as a result of tax reform (which lowered the tax rate on those assets from 35 to 21 percent). For Kraft, that reassessment led to a benefit of $7.5 billion. That benefit was offset by $312 million in new taxes for the one-time “deemed repatriation tax” on foreign earnings, plus another $125 million in other new taxes.

Still, that’s a net benefit of $7 billion. Not bad.

Also, given the repatriation of Kraft’s overseas earnings, the company “has reassessed our international investment assertions and no longer consider the historic earnings of our foreign subsidiaries as of December 30, 2017 to be indefinitely reinvested.” Those formerly reinvested foreign earnings totaled $1.2 billion; the decision to reclassify them as distributed profits cost Kraft $96 million in overseas taxes. (That amount is the lion’s share of the $125 million in new taxes we mentioned above.)

The reconciliation by percentage, however, is where things really start to get mind-bending.

That gigantic tax benefit of $7 billion is actually larger than all of Kraft’s 2017 income before taxes ($5.53 billion). So when you reconcile Kraft’s effective tax rate, the benefit of tax reform lowers the company’s rate by 127.3 percent — and the company’s overall effective tax rate is -98.7 percent. Take a look:

We’ve written several posts about unusual effective tax rates this year, as a result of one-time adjustments for repatriated foreign earnings and revalued deferred tax assets. Lots of companies are seeing their effective rates rise this year (before making gobs more money in future years), and some are seeing lower rates.

Kraft’s negative effective rate, however, takes the cake. Which seems fitting since, you know, it’s one of the largest food businesses in the world.


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