Some of these businesses, which include big names in engineering and finance, are "large" in terms of revenue, payroll and distribution, but "small" in terms of ownership, the report, by David Cay Johnston and Chris Hayes, has found.
According to the Republican tax logic, a small number of owners is the sole criterion for a "small business." Such businesses, which according to the Joint Committee on Taxation accounted for 94 percent of all U.S. businesses in 2007, include partnerships, sole proprietorships and S corporations, a designation that allows owners to report profits and losses on their personal tax return, rather than on the company's.
"'Small business' is a brand name," MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said.
The report found that businesses with billions of dollars in annual revenue fall under the small business category. Bechtel, a global engineering and construction company that is considered a "small business" under this logic, took in $31 billion last year. Ferrellgas, a propane company, earned $2 billion in revenue last year. McIlhenny, another "small business," which makes Tabasco sauce, made $250 million in revenue in 2007.
Other names include auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Also on the list are the collection of "small businesses" owned by the billionaire Koch Brothers, who this year tied for fifth on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans, and who were profiled last month by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.
Bloomberg first reported this unusual tax logic on Monday. The Republican "small business" designation, the report said, would apply even to individuals with no employees at all. It could include actors, athletes and authors -- even President Obama.
WATCH MSNBC's segment: