Considering its well publicised financial practices, Google should be taxed on the collective size of its balls for this statement alone!
Not content with slashing its tax burden by channeling profits through overseas subsidiaries, Google now says it has actually overpaid $83.5m in tax – and it's suing the US Internal Revenue Service to get it back. The dispute dates back to 2004, when America Online exercised a warrant to buy approximately 7.4 million shares of …
That would only be the case if Google's accounting practices were something to be ashamed of.
Nobody's yet explained to me what moral right the government has to take Google's money, so I therefore fully support their efforts to recoup any money that was coerced out of them. I don't see that the coercing is being done by the Government, or that it's being called "tax" as making any difference. I'll take moral arguments, once someone shows me a credible argument that paying tax is a moral responsibility, and not purely a legal one.
Taxes are a part of the cost of doing business. It is the governments responsibility to tax companies and individuals to cover operating costs and it is the responsibility of companies and individuals to do everything legally possible to minimize the amounts they pay out. It had nothing to do with morality, a morally founded financial contribution is a donation or a tithe.
Google may actually be right by the letter of the law here. However, as for the moral argument, this is a tough call because the idea behind a civilization is that we all reap the benefits of collective security and increased prosperity and this is paid for in a manner that the majority agree too (or rather the minority pay for, as it is these days).
Our civilization in theory agrees that companies also should pay for this. This tax is an indirect levy on people, but it is also a method of restricting the loss of value overseas but mostly because people mostly think it isn't a tax on themselves.
We can all argue till we are blue in the face about taxing companies or paying any tax at all. That isn't really the point. I won't attempt to change your mind, hell I don't even know for sure you are wrong, maybe we should zero rate companies? Maybe we should only have a sales tax and no other tax? The point is the current system says X, your choice is to comply or change the system. Choosing to find every way possible to undermine the system, circumvent it or outright cheat it is not how it goes and the closer you get to outright cheating the more you can expect people to get pissed off. The more you use money to buy favors the more you can expect people to get pissed off. The basic principal is that you get benefits, these have to be paid for and the manner in which they are paid for should (but isn't) should be determined by the wishes of the majority. Any screwing with that basic principal is going to get people very pissed off. What we have seen is a depression, one where normal people like me bailed out the banks who went right back to doing hugely stupid things in new and innovative ways, one where we bailed out companies who went back to rewarding stupid, one where the rich not only came out of it with a greater share of the wealth but where we paid to protect that wealth. Then they use this wealth to buy themselves more tax breaks with the insane reasoning that allowing them to have more money will stimulate the economy despite the fact that the last 15 years shows they have a greater % of GDP yet we have the lowest growth. So yeah, expect normal schmucks like me who pay a fricking fortune in tax a year to not rush to googles defense when they find elaborate but legal ways to avoid tax that I cannot avoid, whilst they reap the benefits of the tax I do pay.
Or you could do the logical, sensible and even moral thing and put the blame squarely where it belongs:- with the egocentric and hypocritical incompetents who claim that they can rule us all, set our laws, and everything will be hunky-dory: it will, by the way, but only for them and their chosen cronies.
Democracy my arse!
Seriously, that is what you took away from that? Thank you for so eloquently stating the case for more investment in education.
As regards google getting a state tax break for bringing jobs, that isn't the big issue. The issue is to do with how big companies are able to influence the tax code so they can hide profit in tax havens and how rich individuals are able to buy tax breaks like deferred interest. Personally I don't advocate raising taxes on the less fortunate, I just think we need a less complex tax code that is harder to manipulate and we need to break politicians immunity and their ever increasing need for funds to get elected.
You brought it on yourself by mixing Occupy rhetoric with GOP rhetoric. I've read your first post twice now and am still not sure which side you actually belong to. There is of course the possibility that you are sufficiently schizophrenic that you think the divergent views can be normalized.
If thats aimed at me Tom, it's amusing! :-)
Somewhere between both sides is reality. Neither 'side' is perfect, neither side is entirely right about everything. Can every view be balanced? No. Often though differing views can be adopted in different areas where they make the most sense. The current situation where politics is becoming increasingly polarised results in poor government. You get no action or compromises which don't achieve anything on purpose. America made a choice, a split between the houses. The message was there is no clear winner so compromise. Instead we got infighting, bickering and inaction which leaves us losing out.
I've often heard it said that it's an Americans duty to keep the government in line, an admirable idea. The problem is a lot of people camp for a lifetime with one party and crucially give them carte blanche. you have to be prepared to be critical of your 'own' party just as much as the other one. Just because I might vote democrat doesn't mean I approve or am blind to the waste in the system. Just because I might vote republican doesn't mean I am blind to the corruption in politics or I agree with some of the insane rape \ abortion comments.
I don't care which 'side' you are on but I implore you to think and to hold everyone to higher standards than they currently achieve. Right now we are all getting shafted.
"Google may actually be right by the letter of the law here"
I doubt it. This is the company that instigated the biggest copyright infringement of all time because they felt like it. They have shown many times that they have no respect for either the spirit or the letter of the law and consequently I don't believe their claim that they have not done anything wrong this time. They're just a bunch of crooks.
Yeah, like we need more laws and enforcement.
We're just so unprotected as things stand. /sarcasm off.
Oh at least they've just increased funding for the intelligence agencies, at the expense of schools/libraries/health/welfare: http://rt.com/news/uk-intelligence-spy-budget-increase-252/
Apparently, that will be used for crushing civil unrest. Rather than addressing the real issues.
@Arion: Nobody's yet explained to me what moral right the government has to take Google's money, so I therefore fully support their efforts to recoup any money that was coerced out of them.
Morality has nothing to do with it. It is all about greed. Corporate and Government greed. That along with a huge batch of "What do you mean I can't take it with me when i die?"
While there are still enough fools gleefully handing over corporation tax to do business in a country, the tax authorities are content to let the clever ones pass through the net.
I propose some bright entrepreneur sets up a call centre in Ireland and acts as the sales point for any shop or company that wishes to follow Goggle's tax avoidance scheme..
All sales can be done over the phone or internet to the call centre, from any retail outlet, anywhere, and so cut the local revenue boys out of the loop.
As corporation tax receipts drop to nothing, governments around the world will have no choice but to get together and come up with a universal plan, ending once and for all this incongruous situation, where those with the largest incomes can get away with contributing the least.
"... get away with contributing the least..."
"Contributing" has an inherent suggestion of a voluntary deed. I most certainly do NOT "contribute" my PAYE every month. It is extracted by threat/force from my earnings before I ever see them. And with what is left, I am paying import duties, VAT, a share of the salesperson's own PAYE, so if I, in despair, decide to console myself with a nice pint, the amount of duty & VAT I'm paying on that is definitely extortionate.
I already have to work for the first half of every year just to satisfy the state's insatiable appetite for MY money, so when everything is taken into account, in terms or REAL spending power (net of taxes & duties) I doubt that I'm left with as much as 25% of my actual earnings.
In times gone by, levying extortionate taxes at even a quarter of that rate would have seen the extortionist's head on a pole at the city gates...
Ah, the good old days...
Beer - a rare luxury, these days.
You might think differently if you were "forced" to pay for your own road maintenance, health provision, education.
I could have included law enforcement, but not enforcing laws already seems to be only available to the rich and well connected...
He wouldn't be "forced" to do anything.THere are two ways this can play out.
1) the libertarian utopia where everything is paid for via subscription to private entities. No taxes, but you want to travel long-distance (basically anything involving a car) you'd have to pay a toll. And so on and so forth.
2 Shift everything back to sales tax, like it USED to be before they implemented the ridiculous and intrusive income taxes. Sales taxes are a tax on consumption and inherently fair as everyone pays proportionate to their spending power. You can even band it if you like, set tax rates to vary depending on the retail cost of the items in question and set a zero rate on food, which would probably please quite a lot of people.
I grant that as a consumption tax sales taxes have huge economic incentives. There are however a couple of problems with them.
1. At the current size of government (I'll limit myself to the US, but similar issues exist for just about any EU country, only more so) you simply can't generate the same level of revenue that withholding income tax creates. While I would regard this as a good thing if we were on the other side of the government size curve you have to get from where we are to there. Right now that path would result in riots.
2. Although proponents of the sales tax system claim it would require fewer regulations and fewer regulators, I am doubtful about this. As you make clear some people are willing to tinker with what gets taxed, and even what the rates ought to be and how they should be determined. These are the same 'reasonable accommodations' that led to the current income tax mess.
While I understand the desire to get out of the line of fire of the IRS, I believe the only reliable defense an individual can have against the unequalled power power of any such agency is that any other individual might also be subject to that same power. We might be able to feel safe by sacrificing businesses on the security altar, but I don't think we actually gain liberty by doing so.
@ AC 15:05 GMT
Technically gasoline taxes are for road maintenance but that isn't enough. You also have electric vehicles using the roads while contributing nothing to them.
I do pay for my own health insurance and if I took at what I paid and what I used; I have paid more than received.
Education, I did pay and continue to pay for others through school taxes. View it this way, the average person had 14 years of education. Being a property owner, you pay taxes for school every single year you own property. Who really makes out here? It isn't you.
Come on that has to be the worst trolling in history. No adult actually thinks that is how property taxes \ education or health insurance actually works with respect to calculating cost and benefit?
As for electric vehicles, sure right now that is fair. However, just like diesel in the UK years ago, as soon as theres any volume in it the tax system will evolve to ensure no revenue is lost.
I know it's been popular recently to rave about how awesome life would be living in Ayn Rand's version of reality. It's almost intoxicating listening to her ramblings in that count duckula voice "no taxes dahling, i vont anarchy, private everything, no government" but she has been discredited by just about everyone from Elmo on up. Her ideas mostly came from her experiences of government in her early life in Russia, one bad government does not make all government bad. The same people who support Ayn's ideas also support a large military which couldn't be farther from the practical implementation of her ideals. Seriously do you want a bunch of firefighters working privately? How long before uninsured houses start mysteriously burning down?
Over 50% of my property taxes go towards the school system. Virtually every single school system has been shown to waste to money. They spend money of things that do not benefit the educational system whatsoever. Around here, some high schools have stadiums that rival those of colleges. Educational tax money was used to build them and then you have the school system asking for more money to help the education aspect. In other states you have schools that cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to open. Schools that built a school and then don't have the money to open it. More money is spent in the US compared to most countries but yet the educational aspect is far less. While more money is spent, it is HOW it is spent that is the waste.
You also failed to read the post I was replying too. Since it dealt with paying your fair share, when you pay more than what you receive, someone is receiving more while paying less. So, who is not really paying their fair share?
So someone using something that is paid for by taxes they are not paying is fair? if electric vehicles truly had to pay a tax for the miles they travel, electric vehicles would not be as cheap to operate as they appear. More and more states are looking at making electric vehicles as well as hybrids pay. As fuel mileage goes up, it no longer pays for the road repairs and when you have vehicles not using any gasoline, is tax on fuel the way to go? So when you have a group paying $0 and using the roads, they will be paying. Since going by mile is not an option, they are going to see a flat fee.
I did read it, I think you are willfully misunderstanding how school funding works.
You said that you only get educated for 14 years yet pay property taxes for life. Seriously? So you think that each year half of your property tax is equal to schooling the number of people in your household for one year? I don't quibble for second over the fact schools waste a fortune on ipads and sports stadiums, but that is large the choice of the parents trying to live through their kids. Our property tax this year was about 19k. The cost of schooling here is about 12k a year. Now figure on your 50% thats 9.5k / 4 people in our household = 2.4k, so not anywhere near equal to a years schooling, paying off 12k x 14 years at 2.4k a year would take 70 years, so about right . The average property tax paid is around 1400, so even worse. You don't pay year for year, you repay over your entire life. Some will pay more, some will pay less. You are not being robbed because you pay property tax for more than 14 years. Thats just silly? The share of your property taxes is likely nowhere near the cost of a years education. As for more money being spent, not compared to other countries, at least on education, on healthcare yes, its more than double elsewhere and the quality isn't there either but thats another discussion.
You also mentioned health insurance, it is insurance i.e. the main benefit is that when something very bad and very expensive goes wrong you aren't left paying for it all. Our health insurance is about 650 a month per person, I don't use it beyond the occasional checkup. Am I bitter? I am about the waste inherent in the commercial health system but not about the concept of insurance. A friend was sat on his motorbike at a red light when some drunk redneck in a truck ran the lights through him. His medical bill was insane, the insurance covered all but 10%. If he paid insurance for the next 100 years the insurance company would make a loss on him. That is how the concept works. If you want to get your moneys worth, go get hurt? Do you complain about home contents insurance because you haven't been robbed yet?
As for electric cars, as I said I agree with you. Currently they escape paying for gas tax. This will change in time. Currently electric cars don't make much financial sense which is why there are large federal and state bribes to buy them. It would be rather silly to offer a tax credit for buying them and then introduce any kind of significant additional tax for running them. As they get cheaper the incentives will decline to the point where they disappear then a tax will be slowly introduced. As for hybrids, taxing the battery packs might be an idea. They die every 5 years (it does vary based on technology) and have a limited mileage life so they can effectively be charged on their life \ mileage.
I did say that half of "MY" property taxes goes towards the school system. And yes, each year I pay the equivalent of sending one kid to school for the entire year. I also don't plan of having kids. So, where is the benefit I receive from the school taxes. Using your numbers, it just shows you don't pay your fair share. You need to "contribute" more.
If half of your share of property taxes pays the entire cost of a kids schooling for the year then you are either loaded or have insane property taxes! If you lived here that would be a decent property in the 5-6 million range. Mine works out about right, it's paid off over a lifetime, probably a little in excess, but I pay about 12x the average. Having it be equal or in excess on a yearly basis is very rare.
Just to clarify, is the concern more related to the concept of paying as a percentage of your earnings \ property wealth or the fact it is paid for by something potentially unrelated? Our kids go to private school so I see no benefit from it, I do hate the waste. I would rather pay more tax and not need private schooling because I believe there is an economy of scale but practically it isn't going to happen. Being honest, I believe every kid should have a good education, eventually tailored to their talents. Is the current way of delivering that working or is it paid for in the most efficent way? Hell no. Are there benefits to society is having a well educated workforce, most definately. How it should be paid for is a fair topic but with a three tiered government with each tier grabbing it's own 'taxing rights' sometimes they are left taxing what they can even when the link doesn't make much sense.
Rol:"governments around the world will have no choice but to get together and come up with a universal plan"
In direct contrast to how we got in this mess, with governments competing to attract business by offering tax incentives. When times were good they conveniently managed to overlook that they weren't just shafting other governments but forgoing vital income themselves.
It's hard to belief greedy halfwit governments willing to win business at literally ANY cost could ever agree to stop shafting each other. In the unlikely event any agreement is ever reached I doubt it would last long enough to actually collect the tax before our corrupt politicians kick off another round of suicidal tax giveaways. They really are that corrupt and that stupid.
The current tax structures in most countries are very byzantine and onerous as well. Assume a company pays exactly what the tax man asks, the result is x paid out. If said company takes advantage of all the numerous provisions and tricks allowed by tax law, then may pay (for example) x/2. Naturally all large and not so large companies work their taxes in this way, because to not do so exposes them competitively to any rival that does do so.
Google's mistake is to be a very big target while also being quite good at this tax game. Google didn't create the tax system; they just play the game as they must. Might as well blame the wind for blowing.
Now all that is good right up to the point where you think X company doesn't create the tax system. When companies pay \ bribe \ donate \ lobby for tax concessions then yes they are creating a system. A huge chunk of the blame for this falls on the shoulders of voters. If you vote for whoever has the most lies on tv then you place politicians in a situation where they have to whore themselves and their services to get elected. Companies do not make political donations because they like the colour of the parties rosettes. They are making a purchase or an investment on which they expect a return.
This happens on the local scene, where basically you have to buy permits and licenses via a complicated system of financial support for the local tsar's pet projects (seriously, people think India is bad, at least it is upfront rather than an elaborate dance with intermediaries) to the national scene where companies cajole politicians to the point of actually having the bills written and given to the representative rather than the representative writing them.
If we want to move to a fairer system (and this could be anything from a Randesque libertarian wet dream where everything is private to a socialist everything is state owned) then we really need to sit down and rethink everything about how our society is structured and governed.
Of course I have my own opinion on how 'big' government should be, and many people will disagree, but the problem goes beyond where we fall on that scale and is rooted in a system that has been corrupted and is not fit for purpose, no matter what purpose you desire. The right screams one thing, the left screams the other yes it's one giant card trick, distracting us from the underlying problems.
The 'right' shouts synergies in the boardroom yet refuses to acknowledge possible synergies in socialized healthcare, it shouts get out of peoples lives yet wants to dictate who you can love. The left rants about an unjust tax system yet give them a majority in both houses and does the tax rate on carried interest increase? Hell no. Falling into the left \ rate hate the other guy game is simply allowing yourself to be blinded.
"Now all that is good right up to the point where you think X company doesn't create the tax system. When companies pay \ bribe \ donate \ lobby for tax concessions then yes they are creating a system."
So let's say Google or Apple or Microsoft or Intel or another Huge Prosperous (HP for short) corporation comes to the government of Ireland - or Utah, or wherever - and says, "We are considering building an operation in your jurisdiction with so may billions of dollars in investment and employing so many thousand of people. We like you educated workforce, climate, electrical grid, broadband services, and so on. The only problem is that we would have to pay X% in taxation - and you will further tax our employees, vendors, service providers, etc. that will increase our costs. S we are also considering Luxembourg (Nevada, etc.) who also look good and take only Y% in taxes, hence we are undecided yet."
You call it "creating the tax system", and I won't argue. The government, however, may ask some economists to run a few models, e.g., computing the taxes levied without the potential new business vs. the taxes from all the new business generated by the HP behemoth, income taxes from highly paid employees, the (quantifiable) effect of high-tech employment for thousands of people who will spend their after tax salaries on goods and services that will also be taxed, and so on, and so forth. So the government may come to an economic decision to create a tax loophole so the HP corporation will pay less than Y% in taxes provided they invest and employ. The government may, if needed, convince the appropriate parliament members to push a legislative amendment through in the right form.
To summarize, the tax regime may be created in part due to real economic pressure from players who have real leverage. Like most other laws in a democracy, I might say. These guys who have leverage create a lot of value, and this is the power they use, legally and legitimately. If you say that bribes and other illegal stuff is involved, come up with the evidence and let's put everyone involved in jail - I'll applaud you. Lobbying, or making clear they can do business elsewhere, is just not the same kettle of fish as bribes.
Regardless of how it is achieved or why, some years later some enterprising journalist figures out that the HP corporation pays a low tax rate, and raises a stink. A different government is in power, a different party has parliamentary majority, and both the press and the politicians love a bit of populist rhetoric, conveniently forgetting the economic rationale for the original loophole.
The above is just a use case. There was a piece here on El Reg regarding the rationale for allowing Googles and Amazons to book revenue/profit in a single place in the EU. The piece argued, IMHO correctly, that it was a conscious economic decision on the part of the EU. There is, nevertheless, a cry of "why in Ireland and not in the UK!?!?!" Everybody is free to have an opinion on whether these cries are calls for justice or expressions of frustrated envy towards the far-sighted. Some, probably very few, opinions may even be supported by more or less detailed financial estimates.
By the way, the original calculations may even no longer apply in different times and in different economic conditions. In such cases laws should be changed to reflect that. But demanding back taxes - that HP corporations avoided perfectly legally - "on moral grounds" is nothing but populism (that will likely get a lot of noisy support from people who pay very little in taxes).
ok and there is validity in giving a local tax break to a company in an effort to attract investment. I'm not sure that really is the same as 'lobbying' for tax breaks such as deferred interest. Nor is attempting to claim a possible business loss as a tax break the same as shipping all your profit off to a tax haven to avoid paying tax on it. Yes they are taking advantage of the system without breaking the law, but the system is pretty broken and companies have done a lot to assist it being broken to their benefit.
As regards bribes etc. If I go to a hotel and slip the front desk agent a 50 for an upgrade, that is a bribe and if found out at best they face the sack. If I got to a politician and slip some money to their campaign and let them know I've had some troubles with a building permit, thats called lobbying and is fine! Apparently. There is a huge issue with allowing a situation where elected public servants are allowed to whore themselves. They are elected to serve their constituents, no matter at what level. Encouraging investment is serving their whole community, taking money in return for favors to a select few, in my book that is bribery with a fancy name. If you disagree thats fine, I don't expect us all to agree. When people like Koch donate tens of millions and politicians suddenly forget their promises to get rid of deferred interest tax breaks etc, then how would you characterize that? Saying you will take your business elsewhere, sure theres nothing wrong with letting a politician know how you could bring more jobs, giving them money and getting benefits, thats entirely different.
If you want a clear cut example, go look at Monsanto's campaign donations, then look at who voted against gmo labelling laws. Go look at who took money from the large meat firms, then look at who voted for the 'veggie libel' laws or the new laws going through making it illegal for people to film abuse at large animal feeding operations. Now why can't I go to the police about it, whats the point? It's lobbying and legal. It got a fancy name, even though it would get you or me sacked, so it's all ok.
Tax-and-benefit regimes have been byzantine corruption-magnets for generations. And not just since they became much more formalised and universal after 1945.
We're now in a position where the economic bubble has burst and excessive corrupt and other feelgood (non-investment) spending by governments can suddenly no longer be swept under the carpet. Yet instead of fixing the rotten system, governments try to bully people into ad-hoc payments. That leaves the core of corruption untouched, and low-profile financial engineers without any legitimate business free to reap ever-richer rewards.
By analogy, think Patent Trolls. Think NTP vs RIM: the case that may have sown the seeds for the latter's downfall by moving the whole company from an innovative techie outfit to a defensive one bound by lawyers and red tape. Google, like RIM, has a real business doing something useful. NTP, like many nameless financial engineers, did not.
Google appears to be taking a stand for the rule of law and against arbitrary ad-hoc bullying. They've made it very clear that if the rules tell them to pay more then they will. That looks to me like taking a stand against a system that nurtures large-scale corrupt practices, and I commend them for it.
 I became acutely aware of it living in Italy in the 1990s, when many corrupt politicians were being locked up there. By contrasting that to the UK, I could see our heart of power - and hence corruption - is not the elected politicians, but the judiciary itself, and a network of nods-and-winks spanning primarily the City. How clever to be, quite literally, above the law and enjoy judicial immunity from any of the mess that engulfed Italy.
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