Advantage to the Multinationals

Anyone with a more than passing knowledge of the US tax system and
the Federal budget realizes that the far majority of government spending
comes directly from the paychecks of US workers. In fact, businesses
and corporations, whose total incomes actually exceed the total incomes
of all of America’s workers, account for LESS THAN 10% of total US taxes
collected. This is down from about a quarter of all tax receipts 50 years
ago.

If the business of America is Business, how come the businesses pay
so little of the operating costs for the ongoing operation of our national
enterprise? Could it have anything to do with corporate sponsorship of
the political system, soft-money funding of lawmakers campaigns, constant
and concerted lobbying to reduce the tax load on companies or the efforts
of legions of lawyers and MBAs to create, discover and exploit loopholes,
shelters and technically legal scams to save big bucks for business?

An informative article in today’s Boston
Globe
details how globalization,
outsourcing and job migration are further degrading the government’s
ability to collect a fair share of taxes from businesses and corporations.

When a company moves part of their operation off-shore, be it manufacturing,
assembly, distribution or services, the resulting production is still
part of the Gross National Product, as it has been created by a US entity.  However,
it is usually subject to the local, non-US tax system, and unless the
final profits are repatriated the US government can’t get their hands
on any of the resulting cash flow. 

For this reason, not only is Bermuda, with its 3% effective corporate
tax rate, an attractive haven, but seemingly reputable countries like
Holland (8.9%), Luxembourg (0.9%) and Ireland (7.5%) can represent billions
in savings for companies which manage to locate some of their profit
centers there.

There are several "legal" techniques for relocating profit centers to
countries with lower tax rates. An American company can transfer a trademark
or copyright to a foreign affiliate
so that all of the profit generated by that intellectual property is
taxed at a low rate.  The American mother company can sell its products
at low or no profit to a foreign subsidiary which then sells them on
the local market or re-exports them to a third country at a hefty markup,
leaving the resulting profit to be taxed at the lower foreign rate.

As further evidence of the sacrifice of patriotism to profits, the Globe
reports that nearly half of the $233 billion US corporations earned abroad
in 2001 were never brought back to the US where they could be taxed,
but instead were held in foreign tax havens.

Commerce Department data from December illustrate the challenge facing
tax officials. The figures show that corporate earnings held in offshore
tax havens like Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands have doubled over the
last 15 years. Those two countries have tax rates of 0.9 percent and
5.2 percent, respectively, compared with 28 to 35 percent in the United
States.

from the Boston Globe

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One Response to Advantage to the Multinationals

  1. Donald Larson says:

    Earlier in my career I worked for a global management consulting firm. That organization hired some of the brightest MBA graduates from the nation’s top Business Schools.

    One of the ways the company earned money was finding new ways for large corporations to circumvent taxes legally. They were successful at it.

    I discovered that each time new tax laws were passed by Congress, the company would receive new contracts and begin the process of end-running the new laws once again.

    I learned that the top students of University’s don’t go to work for the government, they go to the highest bidder, the Fortune 100 companies. So they are pitted against the folks that draft laws for our nation. It’s not a fair battle and the corporations win and will win every time in such a contest, imho.

    Don

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