Boeing paid more than a half billion dollars in federal income tax for 2014, marking just the third time in a dozen years that it has written a check to the IRS.

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Boeing paid more than a half-billion dollars in federal income tax last year, marking just the third time in a dozen years that it has written a check to the IRS.

The company’s 10-K annual report, filed earlier this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission, shows that in 2014 Boeing paid a net $581 million in taxes on pretax U.S. profits of $6.8 billion, an effective tax rate of 8.5 percent.

The reason Boeing’s tax bill doesn’t match the size of the record profit it booked for the year is that the net income reported to shareholders is based on pushing out into the future billions of dollars in costs, including $4.5 billion last year in deferred 787 Dreamliner production costs.

But when Boeing pays taxes, those costs are taken out of the current year’s income.

As a result, Boeing lists two categories of tax attached to its reported profits: tax paid this year and tax deferred until later. The latter is the tax it expects to pay when real cash profits roll in sometime in the future, say when the 787 becomes profitable.

So last year, Boeing deferred payment of $828 million in federal taxes.

Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said Boeing’s tax expense has been low or negative in recent years “because of our significant investments in development and production of new programs.”

In 2013, Boeing had a net federal tax refund of $199 million.

The company has paid net taxes in just three years out of the dozen since the 787 was launched in 2003, for a cumulative net $1.3 billion federal tax refund. That works out to an average tax rate in that period of close to negative 3 percent.

These figures have to be carefully drawn out of Boeing’s financial filings. In the annual SEC filing, the company cites a 2014 effective tax rate of 23.7 percent, not 8.5 percent.

That’s because the tax rate Boeing cites takes into account the $828 million in taxes deferred into the future — but not actually paid yet.

The figure of $581 million actually paid in 2014 taxes is derived from the “current tax expense” listed in Boeing’s annual report. That tax expense is cited as $676 million, but has to be reduced by a tax benefit from stock options exercised in a given year that’s listed separately in the report.

Boeing’s Bickers said the calculation “looks like it adds up correctly.”

The practice of deferring costs on airplane programs — producing a profit that’s booked today though it is expected to materialize only over many years — is acceptable under SEC accounting rules.

It’s designed to smooth out the impact of Boeing’s launching airplane programs that require massive initial spending yet produce returns slowly over decades as planes are delivered.

Bickers pointed out the jet maker has spent more than $50 billion in research and development and capital expenditure over the last decade.

The filings show that Boeing has pushed out to the future a net cumulative total of $1.9 billion in taxes.

Boeing says it expects eventually to pay those deferred taxes.

“We adhere to the rules and pay the appropriate taxes,” Bickers said. “We will incur higher cash taxes as 787 profitability continues to improve.”

Yet 787 profitability is still some way off.

Wall Street analysts now anticipate that the 787’s total deferred production costs, now at $26 billion and counting, will continue to climb through 2016 and will peak at more than $30 billion.

With 240 Dreamliners delivered so far, that money is supposed to be recouped by the time 1,300 Dreamliners are delivered, roughly eight or nine years from now.

If that cash rolls in, Boeing’s taxes will correspondingly rise.

But for now, Boeing gets to report record profits and pay low taxes.