In reality, of course, far less is paid - but it can still be an onerous amount. If a company can take advantage of some incentives or deductions or tax credits, it can reduce its corporate tax burden - sometimes to zero. And sometimes, leaving this money overseas is one way they reduce this tax burden. Every government regulation has an intended effect and an unintended effect, and excessive taxation at any level forces people and companies to find ways to avoid paying taxes. When you tax yachts in California, millionaires move them across the border to Mexico. The upper-middle class has to pay the tax - and sell their boat.
On the shareholder side, dividends may be taxed as ordinary income and what rate the taxpayer pays depends on what bracket they are in. A retiree like myself might be in the 15% bracket. A high-earner like a doctor might be in the 39.6% bracket. A really, really high earner can afford to structure their finances so as to pay as capital gains or carried interest at the 15% bracket. It is damn near impossible, however, to avoid paying taxes at all - although you can defer them in a number of ways, the most familiar to you and me being the 401(k) or IRA.
However, a corporation may pay other forms of taxes - just as we all do. For example if a company owns a large factory, it may pay property taxes on that factory. It also made pay sales taxes on sales of goods customers, as well as gross receipts taxes in some jurisdictions which taxes the overall income, not necessarily the overall profit.
Gross receipts taxes, by the way, are a really unfair form of tax, in that they tax you regardless of whether you made a profit. If your business takes in a million dollars in "receipts" you may be liable for $45,000 in "gross receipts taxes" in your jurisdiction (such as Alexandria, Virginia, with a 4.5% gross receipts tax). Even with a healthy profit margin of 10%, you may have only $100,000 in profits. The gross receipts tax could amount to almost half your income. Throw in corporate tax, property taxes, and sales taxes and you may be making nothing. One reason I closed my "storefront" law practice and became an "independent contractor" was that I could not afford to pay 4.5% on my gross receipts, particularly considering that nearly half my gross receipts were for Patent office fees or foreign attorney fees. But enough of my soapbox on that.
(There are legitimate reasons for doing this. A company rife with cash is a juicy takeover target. So it doesn't pay to leave cash laying around in the till, but rather to spend it in one way or another).
Companies can operate profitably in almost any tax environment, provided they can plan accordingly for such taxes - and charge their customers accordingly. When rates go up and down and are not predictable, it makes it so much harder to plan for the future. And the same is true for any regulation. Auto companies right now are struggling to offer smaller, more fuel-efficient engines in their cars - with Ford famously putting a four-cylinder engine in the Mustang for the first time in decades. All of this R&D will go out the door, however, if CAFE standards are re-set under a new administration.
Similarly, predictable and consistent tax policy is far better than wild swings in tax rates or one-time special deals. When you create one-time tax holidays, it only trains companies to wait for such "specials" in the future, much as the shopper becomes addicted to coupons and sales - as J.C. Penny found out to its detriment.
Sadly, the government seems to prefer to use stunts like a tax holiday or the like to create one-time situations which force companies to scramble to make plans to accommodate these special events.
A better plan than a one-time text holiday stunt would be an overhaul of our tax system to make it more consistent with the tax rates in other countries and to eliminate the double taxation problem.