The most profitable Fortune 500 companies – including several in North Carolina – are paying little or no federal income tax. According to a new report, Duke Energy has paid no federal corporate taxes since 2008, a period in which the company made $9 billion in profit. Allan Freyer, policy analyst for the North Carolina’s Budget and Tax Center, said the findings confirm the major disparity between corporate America and average citizens. “It’s clear that we have one set of rules for middle-class families when it comes to taxes and another set of rules for highly profitable corporations,” Freyer said. “The rules for corporations really do allow them to escape paying anywhere near close to their fair share in taxes.” Duke has paid $3 million in state income taxes since 2010, but received $300 million in tax rebates, according to the report released jointly by the groups Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. According to additional research by Democracy North Carolina, Duke Energy donated more than $400,000 last year to state and national political action committees. Duke currently is the subject of federal and state inquiries into the coal-ash spill at its retired Eden power plant. While corporations are taking advantage of tax loopholes, Freyer said, average citizens are confronting higher tax rates and, in some cases, the elimination of tax credits or services. “In attempting to reduce our federal budget deficit, middle-class families have been asked to pay more,” he said, “while large, profitable corporations have been paying significantly less.” Other North Carolina Fortune 500 companies use tax breaks to pay reduced rates, according to the report. The list includes International Paper, Merck Pharmaceuticals, IBM and Dupont. Starting this year, the state corporate tax rate is decreasing from 6.9 percent to 6 percent. By 2017, the rate is slated to be reduced to 3 percent. The report is online at ctj.org.