"Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress."
According to a Reuters story on the same report:
"The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005."
There is a huge difference between the two claims. It isn't in the least surprising that a majority of corporations had at least one year during the period with no taxable income. It would be quite surprising if a majority had no taxable income at all throughout the period, which is what the Times is claiming. I would give high odds that it's the Times, not Reuters, that is wildly misstating the facts.
"As figure 2 shows, about 72 percent of FCDCs and 55 percent of USCCs reported no tax liability for at least 1 year during the 8 years. About 57 percent of FCDCs and 42 percent of USCCs reported no tax liability in multiple years—2 or more years—and about 34 percent of FCDCs and 24 percent of USCCs reported no tax liability for at least half the study period—4 or more years."
While the text doesn't say so, the figure's label makes it clear that it is showing large corporations not, as Reuters implied, all corporations. I made the same mistake in an earlier version of this addition, and was corrected by a poster in the comments thread.
I could find nothing in the report that corresponded precisely to the claim in the Times story. One possibility is that they were using the same figures as Reuters, combining the numbers for the two kinds of corporations, and misreading one year in eight as eight years in eight. Alternatively, they might have been misreading the first graph in the report which showed, not the percentage of firms that reported no tax liability in any of the years 1998-2005 but, for each of those years, the percentage that reported no tax liability in that year.
Perhaps the author intended to write, not "Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005" but "In each of the years 1998 through 2005, two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes," which is at least roughly true, sounds very similar, but is in fact very different.