Which Companies Get the Most Federal Subsidies?

A new report tallies federal grants and tax credits across more than 100 different programs.
by | March 17, 2015

With hundreds of programs spanning multiple agencies, it’s hard to say how much individual companies benefit from federal grants and tax credits.

Good Jobs First, an economic development watchdog group, published Tuesday what it considers to be the first comprehensive database of corporate subsidies at the federal level, tallying awards from 137 different programs. In all, the federal government has awarded grants and allocated tax credits totaling $68 billion since 2000.

Spanish electric utility company Iberdrola was identified as the largest single recipient of federal grants and tax credits in the group's report. The company has received nearly $2.2 billion since 2000, mostly stemming from investments in power generation facilities supported by the Recovery Act.

For the most part, it’s a relatively small number of larger corporate players that receive most federal dollars. Two-thirds of all grants and allocated tax credits over the time period reviewed were awarded to 582 firms. Twenty-one of the companies netted more than $500 million in federal grants and subsidies.

The same is true of state and local grants and tax expenditures, although the report noted that larger companies dominate federal subsidies to a somewhat lesser extent at the federal level.

There are a few distinctions in how the federal government awards grants and tax credits compared to states and localities. With state and local tax incentives, governments typically want to retain or lure employers to a specific area. The location isn’t as much of an issue at the federal level. Larger deals are also awarded to specific companies far more often at the state and local level, said report co-author Philip Mattera.

Different types of awards support different programs. Tax expenditures, particularly the federal mortgage interest deduction, fund homeownership, while grants are more used to back rental assistance, for example.

The Good Jobs First report also examined federal contractors receiving various types of subsidies. About half of the largest for-profit federal contractors had been awarded grants or allocated tax credits since 2000.

A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts project also tallied federal subsidies across nine economic sectors. Health and housing programs accounted for, by far, the largest share of federal tax expenditures, followed by education, defense and energy.

Parent Companies Receiving More Than $500M Since 2000

Parent Company Federal Grants and Allocated Tax Credits
Iberdrola $2,172,641,752
NextEra Energy $1,938,811,949
NRG Energy $1,730,060,410
Southern Company $1,475,553,962
Summit Power $1,441,936,555
SCS Energy $1,254,154,000
Tenaska $966,252,326
Duke Energy $898,436,173
General Electric $836,524,548
Exelon $734,674,010
EDP-Energias de Portugal $722,468,855
Leucadia National $651,647,087
SunEdison $649,564,635
General Atomics $614,658,667
Abengoa $605,128,646
Air Products & Chemicals $604,170,312
Ameren $594,809,786
E.ON $576,149,728
AES $566,920,950
Invenergy $531,915,559
General Motors $529,398,581
SOURCE: Good Jobs First