Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Representation Without Taxation - The Loopy Tax Strategies Of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 23, 2013

Google taxes

Headlines like the one above from a Reuters story anger regular tax payers in the US, UK, France and frankly, everywhere.  They use legal loopholes and international transactions to weave a complex web of tax avoidance.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt flippantly told a UK radio audience earlier this year that their government should change the tax laws to get more taxes from Google, otherwise it will continue with its Irish, Dutch, and Bermuda based shell companies.

Facebook uses the same arrangements to avoid taxes, and Apple, Amazon, too. They use every loophole available to limit their US taxes, such as keeping billions in profits in offshore accounts. 

Falling corporate tax revenues as a percentage of GDP:

Fredgraph

As they lower their tax payments, they dramatically increase their spend on lobbying:

Google Now Spends More on Lobbying Than Lockheed Martin - The Wire

Google spent $25 million lobbying Washington during the course of the FTC probe, and it worked - The Next Web

Bobbie Johnson has written a great overview of lobbying in Europe: 

…Google has one of the most complex European lobbying operations among Internet companies. It operates a significant team in Brussels, but also has staff in most other major European capitals — including Berlin, where it opened a new office housing seven lobbyists. Their job? To try and influence the German government over issues like privacy and copyright, where it is far stricter than most other nations.

…Amazon is one of a number of American technology companies that is lobbying Brussels in order to weaken restrictions on data collection. It is not listed in the joint transparency register. And yet it does have a Brussels presence to help try and secure itself a good deal across the single market.

What’s sweeter than representation without taxation?!

Those were once revolutionary words when lined up in a different order: “No taxation without representation” ignited the first American Revolution and changed the world. 

Corporations that triple-up on lobbying, as they weasel out of ever more taxes, is fueling a lot of discontent and anger. Pay taxes — not lobbyists.

Google, Facebook Continue To Flood Washington With Cash For Lobbying Efforts; Consumer Watchdog Calls Record Spending Cynical Bid To Buy Influence - MarketWatch

No one likes paying taxes but there is a grudging agreement that it’s a societal necessity. It's for a common good. Yet corporations hide behind a fiduciary duty to pay less for this common good, while at the same time seeking greater influence on government and legislation.

They haven’t noticed that, “taxation” and “representation” are inexorably linked in the revolutionary psyche of America. More of one without more of the other makes no sense. Free speech rights aren’t worth much when it’s untaxed money that gets to be heard.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, are massive consumer brands. Yet their unapologetic, loopholed tax strategies, risk extensive brand damage from being on the wrong side of two of peoples' big discontents: low corporate tax payments and rampant corporate lobbying.

“No representation without taxation” is a reasonable demand — it could help flush the lobbyists and result in a more equitable world.

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