According to USA Today analysis of S&P Capital IQ data, however, there were at least 20 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 that reported paying an effective tax rate of 0 percent or lower for the second quarter of 2014. To be included in the analysis, the companies had to report positive earnings, including unusual items, before taxes.

One such company was drug-producing giant Merck, which had a negative effective tax rate of 7.5 percent for the second quarter, according to USA Today. In other words, taxpayers gave the company the equivalent of 7.5 percent of its quarterly profits in tax credits. Merck's pre-tax income rose 52 percent during the quarter, coming to $1.9 billion.

This anomalous tax rate was attributed to the "beneficial impact of foreign earnings" in the company's filing, but Merck also got a significant one-time tax benefit from an option exercise that involved AstraZeneca's purchase of its interest in a partnership, the news source explained. AstraZeneca has also been under public scrutiny with regards to corporate tax practices.

President Barack Obama and other liberals have been making corporate taxation a major issue ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Both sides of Congress agree that tax code reform is necessary, but many analysts agree that the political deadlock will prevent anything from happening before the elections determine the shape of the next two years.

As tax attorneys for Scarinci Hollenbeck, a regional business law firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., James F. McDonough and I are acclimated with corporate culture and the goings-on of corporations regarding income taxes. Check out some of latest post on this hot-button topic: