Many U.S. corporations operate globally and have foreign subsidiaries. The subsidiaries may be created, for example, to take advantage of sales opportunities or favorable labor conditions. In some cases they may be used to reduce taxes. GAO was asked to update its 2004 report on large federal contractors with subsidiaries in countries sometimes called tax havens because of low taxes and a general lack of transparency. In response, GAO determined how many of the 100 largest publicly traded U.S. corporations and the 100 largest publicly traded U.S. federal contractors have subsidiaries in jurisdictions listed as tax havens or financial privacy jurisdictions. GAO (1) combined three lists of such jurisdictions created by governmental, international, and academic sources and (2) identified large publicly traded U.S. corporations and federal contractors and the locations of their subsidiaries using the Fortune 500 list, a federal contracting Web site, and a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) database.
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