This tax season will be kind to Bank of America and Wells Fargo: It appears that neither bank will have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.
Bank of America probably won't pay federal taxes because it lost money in the U.S. for the year. Wells Fargo was profitable, but can write down its tax bill because of losses at Wachovia, which it rescued from a near collapse.
The idea of the country's No. 1 and No. 4 banks not paying federal income taxes may be anathema to millions of Americans who are grumbling as they fill out their own tax forms this month. But tax experts say the banks' situation is hardly unique.
"Oh, yeah, this happens all the time," said Robert Willens, an expert on tax accounting who runs a New York firm with the same name. "Especially now, with companies suffering such severe losses."
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Bob McIntyre, at Citizens for Tax Justice, said he opposes the government giving corporations such a break.
"If you go out and try to make money and you don't do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?" McIntyre said. "It's as simple as that."
For 2009, Bank of America netted a $2.3 billion benefit related to income taxes, according to its annual report: It had a benefit of $3.6 billion from the federal government, and an expense of $1.3 billion that it paid to different state and foreign governments.
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