BANGOR, Maine — As many last-minute filers scrambled to send in their taxes, a group of 15 protesters assembled in front of the Bank of America building on Exchange Street on Tuesday afternoon and tried to present the bank manager with a tax bill.
Holding signs reading “Take a bite out of crime, eat a banker” and “Bank of America: Bad for America,” protesters chanted “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out” before marching into the Bank of America lobby and trying to give a “billing statement” to the bank manager, who politely told the group she wasn’t allowed to accept it.
“Our goal was to give the bill to the branch manager so she could send it on to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan,” said Nicole Brown, a Maine People’s Alliance staff member and community organizer.
The Maine People’s Alliance released a report Tuesday detailing the money it says Bank of America owes in taxes based on federal bailout money accepted, tax refunds, and taxes not paid since the federal bailout.
The alliance charges that Bank of America has received $230.1 billion in federal taxpayer bailout funds, made $5.5 billion in profit since the bailouts were issued, and was given $5 billion in federal tax refunds without paying any taxes.
Bank of America spokesman T.J. Crawford said his company has, in fact, paid federal taxes.
“In 2011, Bank of America paid approximately $2 billion in U.S. taxes,” Crawford said Tuesday. “In the past decade, Bank of America has paid more than $55 billion to federal, state and local governments in taxes.”
Brown paused when told that information.
“That doesn’t match the numbers in our report,” she said. “That is a big disparity.”
Mike Tipping, Maine People’s Alliance’s communications director, said monetary figures quoted in the group’s press release were gleaned from 2012 investor filings, investor reports, U.S. Treasury Department figures and the General Accounting Office. Income tax refund figures come from 2009-2011 IRS income tax information, he said.
“I’m not sure where their figures are coming from,” Tipping said. “Some of the people protesting in Bangor today are bank shareholders, and they’re planning to go to their annual meeting.”
Crawford said the notion that Bank of America isn’t paying taxes is false.
“It’s important for everyone to understand that we take our responsibility as a corporate citizen seriously and when we owe taxes, we pay them,” Crawford said. “As far as the protests today, the facts don’t support this group’s claims.”
When asked if the Maine People’s Alliance has protested or intends to protest in front of any federal buildings, since the bailout funding came from the U.S. government, Brown said no.
“We’re just trying to point the spotlight on corporations in general and how they’re not paying their fair share in taxes,” she said. “We didn’t really take a position on the bailouts at the time. There are people upset about that, but that’s in the past.”
Tipping said he understands that the federal government also bears blame for the bailout.
“A lot of the reason we protest Bank of America is because of the control they exert over regulators and elected officials in our government through $10.1 million in lobbyist payments and $9.5 million in federal political contributions,” he said.
The Maine People’s Alliance, which is observing its 30th anniversary this year, also staged protests at Bank of America locations in Augusta and Portland on Tuesday. The nonprofit group maintains offices in Bangor, Augusta, Lewiston and Portland and has 30,000 members statewide.