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Bringing Good Tax Schemes To Life
March 25, 2011 11:33 AM   Subscribe

G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether. 'General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.'

'Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.'

'
posted by VikingSword (119 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
US Uncut is having a national day of action tomorrow.
posted by ofthestrait at 11:35 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


All these poor corporations, being driven out of business by oppressive tax schemes. Thank goodness there's a whole raft of business-friendly politicians finally installed in office who can give them the tax breaks they so desperately need to get our economy back on track!
posted by hippybear at 11:35 AM on March 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well they need to pay no taxes even more than before! To a greater degree!
posted by Mister_A at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think that corporate taxes universally result in this kind of absurd, wasteful game-playing. It would be better to do away with them entirely and instead tax the people who own the corporations and the people who are taking absurd remuneration at the top of said corporations.

But then the lobbyists would be out of a job. Couldn't let that happen.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not GE's fault that our tax laws are so full of loopholes and that our corrupt public officials are so easily (and legally) bribed.
posted by gyc at 11:40 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I usually don't think of myself as a cynic, so the fact that I was more resigned than disgusted by this is playing havoc with my self image right now.
posted by Leta at 11:40 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be better to do away with them entirely and instead tax the people who own the corporations and the people who are taking absurd remuneration at the top of said corporations.

Shareholders already pay capital gains taxes, do you want them to pay tax on the income that the corporation receives but they do not as well? What kind of crazy talk is this?
posted by b1tr0t at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


It would be better to do away with them entirely and instead tax the people who own the corporations and the people who are taking absurd remuneration at the top of said corporations.

Because those people for sure would never dodge taxes!

Also, GE is also a media company. That's right, the same outlet that brings you wall-to-wall talking heads saying we need...*drumroll* TAX RELIEF for the rich and the corporations they own
posted by DU at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not GE's fault that our tax laws are so full of loopholes...

I invite you to read the [more inside]: Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks...
posted by DU at 11:42 AM on March 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


But what about Sheinhardt Wig Co?
posted by kmz at 11:42 AM on March 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


It's not GE's fault that our tax laws are so full of loopholes and that our corrupt public officials are so easily (and legally) bribed.

From what I understand, it actually IS GE's fault. When GE bids on a large federal project, GE is willing to drop the price in exchange for a corresponding tax break. I hear that GE hasn't paid federal taxes in decades as a result.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not GE's fault that our tax laws are so full of loopholes and that our corrupt public officials are so easily (and legally) bribed.

It's not my fault you didn't set your burglar alarm and that it's so easy to break a window and take your laptop.
posted by theodolite at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


'Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm.


I know the saying "tax avoidance is legal, while tax evasion is not." It was drilled into me by every professor I had in college. My accounting professors showed me the tricks.

But the bottom line is this: This isn't smart. This isn't cool. This is adhering to the letter of the law and obliterating the spirit of the law. This is a giant fuck you to every tax-paying citizen of this country.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2011 [29 favorites]


It would be better to do away with them entirely and instead tax the people who own the corporations and the people who are taking absurd remuneration at the top of said corporations.

Generally, that means that the rich only pay tax on money they intend to consume. At that point you might as well go to a consumption tax since everybody can incorporate and pay themselves only what they need to spend right now.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, unemployment at sky-high levels, Republicans want to do away with healthcare reform and Social Security, and the US government is still handing out billions in corporate welfare. Maybe Alaska was right.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't forget 3 wars.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm about halfway through right now - you know, the part where GE's tax-dodging seems excessive to even Ronald fucking Reagan. Holy god.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shareholders already pay capital gains taxes, do you want them to pay tax on the income that the corporation receives but they do not as well? What kind of crazy talk is this?

I'm saying you could offset an elimination of the corporate tax in part with an increase on capital gains and dividend taxes. Further, you could make both of those taxes progressive to minimize the impact on middle- and working-class retirees. Also introduce a couple upper-level income tax brackets to get a chunk of excessive executive salaries (and make sure the tax code counts options and bonuses as income).

Because those people for sure would never dodge taxes!

While a multinational corporation can use offshore subsidiaries to legally shelter income, an individual doesn't have the same options available. Offshore income hiding for individuals has become very difficult in recent years, and it is prosecuted aggressively. Look for it to get even harder now that the US government has broken the resistance of the Swiss banks.

Also, GE is also a media company.

Didn't they sell their media holdings to Comcast?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:50 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



It's not GE's fault that our tax laws are so full of loopholes and that our corrupt public officials are so easily (and legally) bribed.


This is something that drives me apeshit about this country. And before I say anything further, note that I'm not accusing you of anything, gyc.

But I hate, hate, HATE that so very many people in the USA will shrug and say the corporations are just being savvy in taking advantage of loopholes and processes to reduce or eliminate their tax burden, then turn around and become mouth-frothingly outraged at a poor black woman who "takes advantage" of loopholes in the welfare system (or the school system, to invoke a story posted to the blue not too long ago).

Corporation cheats the system: shrugs and slaps on the wrist, half-hearted calls to change the system

Minority on welfare: shouting, demands of jail time, and angry calls to scrap the entire social safety net system or at least make it shockingly abusive, oppressive and humiliating.

And this is often from conservatives and the so-called "left" (see: Bill Clinton celebrating how he fucked poor women over with welfare reform) in America alike. What the hell is wrong with this country?
posted by lord_wolf at 11:54 AM on March 25, 2011 [85 favorites]


Generally, that means that the rich only pay tax on money they intend to consume

How so? I'm talking about capital gains, dividend, and income taxes.

posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on March 25, 2011


That guy's right! Fuck the unions!
posted by penduluum at 11:56 AM on March 25, 2011


Meh. Wake me when their level of self-serving greed at the expense of hard-working Americans rivals that of public school teachers.
posted by mkultra at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


GE has always been very aggressive with their taxes--they hover around the line, pushing the grey area further and further out. And it's not just the tax code--they push it with the GAAP rules as well. It's been published--lots shady accounting stuff to boost their income, stuff going back 20-30 years. There are a number of people who basically think Jack Welch and GE are really just one big scam.
posted by stevenstevo at 12:00 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


at a poor black woman who "takes advantage" of loopholes in the welfare system

As valid as the story about Perseus.
posted by grubi at 12:01 PM on March 25, 2011


If they are finding legal loopholes in existing laws, then I can hold no grudge against GE. It is the government and our elected officials' fault that they don't have the sac to ignore the handouts from GE and write thorough, tough, loophole free tax law. And it's our fault for not holding them accountable for that.
posted by spicynuts at 12:01 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


If they are finding legal loopholes in existing laws, then I can hold no grudge against GE. It is the government and our elected officials' fault that they don't have the sac to ignore the handouts from GE and write thorough, tough, loophole free tax law. And it's our fault for not holding them accountable for that.

The lawmakers don't write the laws. Corporations like GE did. They will actually draft the laws themselves and submit them to the lawmakers through lobbyists. It's the verse of "I'm Just a Bill (On Capitol Hill)" that no-one ever sings.
posted by grubi at 12:05 PM on March 25, 2011 [15 favorites]


Nationalize it. How's that for a tax stragey?

That may sound facetious but it worked out swell for everyone involved in Venezuela. Even the Koch bros.
posted by clarknova at 12:06 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]



The lawmakers don't write the laws. Corporations like GE did. They will actually draft the laws themselves and submit them to the lawmakers through lobbyists. It's the verse of "I'm Just a Bill (On Capitol Hill)" that no-one ever sings.


I will re-iterate what I just said: it's the fault of elected officials' who don't have the sac to ignore corporate hand outs and it's OUR FAULT FOR NOT HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE.
posted by spicynuts at 12:07 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is the government and our elected officials' fault that they don't have the sac to ignore the handouts from GE and write thorough, tough, loophole free tax law. And it's our fault for not holding them accountable for that.

Right. It's our fault. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the ~$39 million GE spent on lobbying in 2010 alone. Or the ~$2.7 million in campaign donations from GE in 2010. Totally our fault for not being able to compete with that level of spending in order to elect better representatives. We definitely shouldn't expect a company not to subvert the democratic process for the sake of greed.
posted by jedicus at 12:09 PM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why isn't there some AMT for corporations? Say, 2% of revenues (not profit, revenue). If GE books 150B in revenue, 2% of that is 150B is 3B. If their taxes are lower than 3B, then they have to fork over at least 3B.
posted by SirOmega at 12:10 PM on March 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I saw this come up on Facebook where one friend posted it another who's a tax accountant, and the tax accountant's response was "Well, if we had lower corporate taxes in America then they wouldn't have to shelter their income!" I've gotten in arguments with this idiot before, so I didn't say anything. I don't like getting in to shouting matches on Facebook.
posted by codacorolla at 12:12 PM on March 25, 2011


My apologies. I botched this FPP by accidentally hitting post. I meant to add this:

"Meanwhile, we do have a reaction to the story from the new Senator who replaced Russ Feingold, the new Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson."

Again, my apologies.
posted by VikingSword at 12:13 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the ~$39 million GE spent on lobbying in 2010 alone.

That's a great return on investment, making $3.2 billion from $39 million. Somewhere, a Goldman Sachs trader is probably having an orgasm every 6 seconds.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


How so? I'm talking about capital gains, dividend, and income taxes

Because my single-shareholder company will just not pay dividends except the money that I need to live on this year. My income tax is then only on my consumption, while my leftover income for investment never leaves the corp and so never gets taxed before being reinvested. I'll never sell my personal company, so I'll never pay capital gains. When I die, I'll pass it on and the basis will reset.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:17 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Classic TV Funhouse
posted by BeerFilter at 12:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Q: So, Ron Johnson, what's your reaction to this story that GE is paying effectively $0 in taxes?

A: Corporate taxes need to be lowered to ~25% if we're going to stay competitive.

Sigh.
posted by Huck500 at 12:19 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm tired of these unions fleecing this country!
posted by fuq at 12:19 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It pays to have friends in high places.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2011


Right. It's our fault. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the ~$39 million GE spent on lobbying in 2010 alone. Or the ~$2.7 million in campaign donations from GE in 2010. Totally our fault for not being able to compete with that level of spending in order to elect better representatives. We definitely shouldn't expect a company not to subvert the democratic process for the sake of greed.

Do you need a refresher on the definition of the word 'and' or are you just intentionally ignoring the first part where I said it's our elected officials' fault for not having the balls to ignore handouts from corporations AND...
posted by spicynuts at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because my single-shareholder company will just not pay dividends except the money that I need to live on this year

Right. That's tax fraud. You could do something like that with the current tax code (declare yourself a business and call all of your expenses business expenses), but you'll get nailed in an audit and probably go to jail.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2011


Do you need a refresher on the definition of the word 'and' or are you just intentionally ignoring the first part where I said it's our elected officials' fault for not having the balls to ignore handouts from corporations AND...

Great, so we can put some of the blame on our corrupt representatives. But you also pointed the finger at the electorate and absolved GE of guilt. My apologies for not mentioning that you were 1/3rd right.
posted by jedicus at 12:37 PM on March 25, 2011


The General Electric Handshake.
posted by drezdn at 12:37 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Explain what law GE is breaking? Show me that, I will lay some guilt on them. Ethical considerations aside, there is no LAW, written by our GOVERNMENT, that I can think of that they are breaking, allegations about GAAP not withstanding.
posted by spicynuts at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ethical considerations aside

Yeah, no.
posted by empyrean at 12:44 PM on March 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


But you also pointed the finger at the electorate and absolved GE of guilt.

Economics is not a morality play. Corporations are profit-maximizing entities and we should not expect them to be anything but that.

The problem isn't that corporations will take advantage of poor regulation, hazy tax law, and opportunities to corrupt elected officials; the problem is that these opportunities exist in the first place.
posted by downing street memo at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


mr_roboto: "That's tax fraud. You could do something like that with the current tax code (declare yourself a business and call all of your expenses business expenses),"

You're confusing writing off expenses with tax advantaged income. Business expenses can both offset income and be carried over from year to year, while personal expenses cannot, so the IRS is going to have a problem with that.

What's being proposed is something people do now: incorporate a sole proprietorship to take advantage of income splitting. Under the eliminated corporate tax proposal, income tax could be significantly delayed by leaving profits with the company. At some later point you can sell the company and book at capital gains rate. Or maybe never sell and monkey something with the inheritance (I'm unclear on that part).

In contrast, I have to go looking for tax sheltered places to put my savings. HSAs, IRAs, 403bs, etc. Interest from my checking and savings accounts are actually taxable income.

The difference between the status quo and the proposal then is one of margins. The potential savings from structuring my life this way isn't worth it at my tax rate, but if you cut it to zero, it very well could be.
posted by pwnguin at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right. That's tax fraud. You could do something like that with the current tax code (declare yourself a business and call all of your expenses business expenses), but you'll get nailed in an audit and probably go to jail.

I don't see how that's similar at all. The fraud is calling personal expenses business expenses. If I own RichPersonEquityCo a c-corp, it's not obligated to send out every dime it makes in dividends to the shareholders; it can use some to grow but pays corporate tax. I couldn't pull that trick with compensation income, but we're talking about rich people here.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't that corporations will take advantage of poor regulation, hazy tax law, and opportunities to corrupt elected officials; the problem is that these opportunities exist in the first place.

And the expenditures and tactics of GE keep the politicians corrupted and keep the laws they write exploitable. It's chickens and eggs here and you're pointing to the eggs.
posted by clarknova at 12:51 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ethical considerations aside

Yeah, no.


Well, then do something.
posted by spicynuts at 12:56 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the expenditures and tactics of GE keep the politicians corrupted and keep the laws they write exploitable. It's chickens and eggs here and you're pointing to the eggs.

If you're an amoral, profit-maximizing entity (which all corporations are), of course you're going to take the opportunity to lobby, write laws, etc if it presents you a chance to make more money.

At any point, Americans can vote for politicians who favor serious campaign finance reform. But that's "socialism".
posted by downing street memo at 12:57 PM on March 25, 2011


And by do something I mean (and I don't know how old you are...) take a look at all of your invsestments...401k, mutual funds, etc...do any of them invest in GE? Get rid of them, send letters to GE's board telling them why, and then get all your friends to do the same.
posted by spicynuts at 12:58 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do people actually not separate the just from the legal or the right from the law?
posted by Shit Parade at 12:59 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Corporate tax reform is desperately needed in order to abolish these kinds of practices. The problem is that while America's statutory corporate income tax (35 percent) is one of the highest in the world, while its effective corporate income tax -- that is, the rate companies actually pay after all the deductions and tax benefits -- is one of the lowest, around 25 percent. This means that if Washington wants enact revenue-neutral corporate tax reform that lower the statutory rate to around 25 percent while reducing deductions and closing loopholes (as they say they do), a lot of powerful companies like GE would lose out and they have a strong interest in making sure it doesn't happen.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 1:00 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Explain what law GE is breaking? Show me that, I will lay some guilt on them. Ethical considerations aside, there is no LAW, written by our GOVERNMENT, that I can think of that they are breaking, allegations about GAAP not withstanding.

I don't think this is about GE breaking any laws. It's more about them not adhering to the spirit of the grand communal experiment of the US, gaming the system for their own benefit at the expense of the greater good, and generally doing things which make them appear to be participating in society in bad faith.
posted by hippybear at 1:00 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


At any point, Americans can vote for politicians who favor serious campaign finance reform

Wait, what? At any point? Did you mean to type "at no point"? Didn't Obama promise campaign finance reform? Is someone else running for office promising that seriously? I am only willing to vote for candidates that support campaign finance reform.
posted by fuq at 1:01 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Corporates should have to pay up to 35% income tax like individuals do. I'll leave it to the 'moral' accountants to figure out what that means exactly.

Also, why not have a sales tax on stock purchases? Nevermind capitol gains tax, just levy an 8% or so sales tax on it, and be done with it.

And figure out how to curb military spending.

And let us just pay 10% income tax.

Maybe my numbers are wrong, but I think the general idea would fix a lot of problems for the people, and cause problems for fatcats and corporations.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 1:05 PM on March 25, 2011


I am only willing to vote for candidates that support campaign finance reform.

We just need to draft Russ Feingold.
posted by drezdn at 1:06 PM on March 25, 2011


As someone who owns a bunch of GE stock, thanks plebs! Keep sending me your money!
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on March 25, 2011


Corporates should have to pay up to 35% income tax like individuals do. I'll leave it to the 'moral' accountants to figure out what that means exactly.

Any profitable company would pick up and move to the nearest tax haven country before nightfall if that ever was ever put into practice.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2011


If my accountant (or lawyer, if I were rich enough) could find some legal way to make me avoid paying any income tax this year, I certainly would tell him to DO IT JUST FUCKING DO IT RIGHT NOW. And he would be getting a nice little present come Christmas as well. I, like most Americans, don't consider whether taking an take exemption is not only legal, but ethical as well, when filling out my tax return, I just take the fucking money. That said, what GE is doing shouldn't be possible and is a stellar example of the need for corporate tax reform.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't wait for the trickle down. Just you wait, it's going to be awesome. You'll see.
posted by danherwig at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Any profitable company would pick up and move to the nearest tax haven country before nightfall if that ever was ever put into practice.

Why is this regarded as such a threat? I mean, who cares? In the example from this FPP, what would we lose of GE decided to headquarters itself on some platform nation in the middle of the pacific? They'd still have to have places to make their stuff, they'd still have to have a skilled workforce to work for them... They aren't paying any taxes at all, and we're actually GIVING them money for some ridiculous reason...

Seems like if more companies moved out of the US and stopped taking our subsidies that they don't really need in the first place, we might actually come out ahead.
posted by hippybear at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


hippybear: "Why is this regarded as such a threat? I mean, who cares?"

Obviously GE is an outlier, but there's a lot more companies in the world than just GE that a 35 percent tax rate would affect.

Ireland's recent growth is often linked to them dropping the corporate tax rate to the lowest in the EU. Many of those who will have to bail them out (Germany, France) want the terms to include raising the tax rate, and I recall reading (but cannot cite at this time) that most of Ireland prefers to keep it low. Clearly both sides of this debate are assuming corporations care.
posted by pwnguin at 1:35 PM on March 25, 2011


[em]Any profitable company would pick up and move to the nearest tax haven country before nightfall if that ever was ever put into practice.[/em]

No company that does not pay tax in the united states shall be eligible to bid on any federal contract or receive any grant, payment or other incentive from the federal government.

There. Sorted.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:40 PM on March 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


Why is this regarded as such a threat? I mean, who cares? In the example from this FPP, what would we lose of GE decided to headquarters itself on some platform nation in the middle of the pacific?

Well, we'd lose all that tax revenue you just tried to impose on them, for one.

I see this as the same dynamic as union-busting. A corporation is a vehicle for collective action, and is much more powerful than all its constituent parts operating independently. A single organization trying to minimize tax on a giant pool of profits can afford to spend large piles of it coming up with (or simply creating) loopholes and other avoidance schemes. If that same amount of profit is spread around thousands of shareholders, any effort to subvert tax collection is going to be much more diffuse and less sophisticated.
posted by bjrubble at 1:41 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It all boils down to this: only suckers pay taxes. Sucker.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:42 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Up here in Ontario we're selling our hockey equipment to help pay for corporate tax cuts!
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


No company that does not pay tax in the united states shall be eligible to bid on any federal contract or receive any grant, payment or other incentive from the federal government.

GE lobbies to pay $1 in tax per annum.

There, back to normal.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait, so if GE moved their HQ offshore, we'd lose all the tax revenues they're not paying us in the first place?

Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Jack.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



It's the unions I tell ya. Them evil unions.
posted by notreally at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2011


My dad (who did 30+ years at GE but managed to never get turned into a Company Man*) has always liked to say that GE only did 2 things really well: Original research, and managing their money.

--
*Largely because he reported mostly to the Pentagon. Which irritated the hell out of his ostensive superiors at GE.
posted by lodurr at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2011


Despite Paying No Income Taxes, GE CEO Lauded His Company’s Patriotism In 2009 West Point Speech.
posted by ericb at 1:57 PM on March 25, 2011


Please don't take what I'm about to say as in any way a defense of crap like what GE et al pull with their taxes.

That said, here is what we lose if they formally go offshore: Worker salaries.

(I leave it to others to refine the question of how many worker salaries are actually getting paid in the US....)
posted by lodurr at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2011


Corporates should have to pay up to 35% income tax like individuals do. I'll leave it to the 'moral' accountants to figure out what that means exactly.

When taxes on gross profit were higher than 60% we had the most comfortable economy in the history of the world. We had the largest and wealthiest middle class ever. When taxes are high, companies reinvest in themselves: hire more workers and buy more equipment. Pay better wages. When they're low they throw their extra cash into speculative investment markets.

Corporations are holding us hostage with the argument that lower tax rates keep them competitive. This is true, but only because of globalized free trade.

Tariffs, taxes and unions are the three pillars of a strong industrial economy.

If you don't understand why unions are important I have one word for you: "weekends"
posted by clarknova at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


Armchair activist mode: on.

My comment above just reeks of naivety, and I realize that it is a lot of work to reform the tax code but it must be done.

I feel that the entire tax code and budget process should be thrown out, and a simpler, more logical tax code and budget enacted. There are just too many hands in the cookie pot right now, so close the fucking cookie pot until we get it sorted out.

So, yeah, let them move the corporate office offshore, and tax the hell out of the imports of products and services they sell. This is America dammit! Our founding fathers would shit their pantaloons-we are letting corporate interests dictate what the government is and does:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property – until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” - Thomas Jefferson
I don't want to pay taxes that are given to corporations as subsidies. I don't want GMO food. I want a nice bank where the teller knows my name and has no fucking idea what a CDO is. I do not want the military to act on my behalf to go kill people. NO FUCKING THANK YOU. I want the SEC and DOJ to come down on insider trading - HARD.

I want Dept of Ag to say, "OK, see, cows don't eat corn, so don't make cows eat corn, let them have grass, and oh, yeah, these male egg-laying breed, yes, they can live too, stop killing them please." P.S. You remember that you didn't want cameras on your farm, well, yes, now they are required. Sorry.

We've got to take the government back and give it to the people. Outlaw lobbyists altogether. Don't even get me started on the Koch-Drones/Tea-Partiers.

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Armchair activist mode: off.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


So, yeah, let them move the corporate office offshore, and tax the hell out of the imports of products and services they sell.

Excactly.

How's this for a slogan people can remember: "Tarrifs, Taxes, Trade Unions!"

We need all three in a single bill with teeth. Get that gearbox going and everything, absolutely everything else will lock into place.
posted by clarknova at 2:05 PM on March 25, 2011


Why, yes, a consumption tax plus rebate for essentials would be lovely, thank you. No tax accountants, no tax lobbyists, no IRS, just a plain and simple tax at the register than no one can escape or get around except for resale purposes.

It's so simple and logical that it would never happen because all those fucks would be out of work and rich people would have to pay their taxes.

I'm not angry, surprised, or disappointed. Ol massa gonna whip his slaves sho nuff and never you mine gettin riled about it, just duck you haid and keep on pickin or maybe your mortgage is going to come up somehow lackin' in insurance and sho nuff you gwine be out on the street.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:17 PM on March 25, 2011


We really need the guy who changes the Google search algorithm each week to go to work for the US Treasury dept to change the corporate tax code on a yearly basis is need be until it becomes cost prohibitive for corporations to pay tax lawyers to skirt the system. Google has been successful up until now because content farmers who spam search results find it futile to expend the energy to game Google's system only to find the next day the game has changed. We need to apply this same strategy to foil those who are looking to game the US tax code. Once that works, get that bastard to do the same thing with campaign finance and the SEC.
posted by any major dude at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


is need be should read "if need be"
posted by any major dude at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2011


Alternative minimum tax for corporations
posted by dibblda at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


lobbyists will be abolished as soon as those with giant piles of money can figure out a way to use those giant piles of money to buy the things that they want from people with smaller moneypiles, and not a moment before.

in other words : it doesn't matter what you call it, it's entirely moot. those with more money can influence those with less money by offering them money. that is the root of every problem.
posted by radiosilents at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, so if GE moved their HQ offshore, we'd lose all the tax revenues they're not paying us in the first place?

Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Jack.


Look, you can evaluate policies based on their effectiveness in achieving some goal, or you can just do whatever gives you some immediate satisfaction.

Corporations are large, rich, and mobile enough that trying to impose high effective tax rates will probably backfire, since it's not hard for them to do whatever they need to do in order to avoid paying it.

So you can either come up with more and convoluted ways to stick it to the corporations, because you're just convinced they're the most deserving of it, or you can find a way to achieve your goal (which I assume to be an effective progressive tax structure) in some way that doesn't involve picking the most unwinnable fight you can find.
posted by bjrubble at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone wants to stick it to corporations... But right now, the climate in the country pretty much looks like class warfare between corporate/business interests and the low-middle income tax payer.

In fact, it looks pretty much exactly like this.
posted by hippybear at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


one of the more persuasive arguments I've heard from libertarians is that the market is much more expensive to "influence" in comparison to a politician or a government. And in some way we can see that in this thread, where by spending about $40 million GE was able to avoid taxes and get refunds of over 3 billion.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:26 PM on March 25, 2011


It also seems like the USA would be better off if Charles Rangel had taken his ethical obligations on the House Ways and Means committee a bit more seriously, or if he had been nudged into early retirement after the 2008 election, instead of being left in place for the next 15 months.

He was found guilty on 11 of 12 counts by a Democratically-chaired ethics committee, and censured by a large majority (333-79) of the full House, with a Democratic majority...two weeks after the November 2010 election. Most of the complaints went back to the summer of 2008, when a string of newspaper articles in not-very-right-wing publications like the NYT and Washington Post drew attention to his questionable fundraising, rental arrangements, tax returns, and more. Page3-4 of this NYT story suggest that Rangel was happy to claim partial credit for GE-related donations to New York institutions like City College around the same time that he waved through large tax exemptions for the firm in 2008, though he now denies there was any connection between fundraising, donations, and policymaking.

Despite all these allegations, he continued to enjoy his job as committee chair after the election; when further accusations surfaced in 2009, the House leadership finally agreed to investigate, and when the preliminary investigative report came out in February 2010 he was allowed to step aside 'temporarily,' before resigning quietly and out of the public eye the following month. No charges were brought until July, then his actual trial was pushed off until November when he retained his seat handily despite a primary challenge. When they finally did get around to holding the ethics trial, his response at the trial is to refuse a defense, complain about being broke after having spent $2 million on legal fees, walk out of the proceedings, and later that week express tearful remorse while asking for mercy. The other day he opened up a fund for his 2012 re-election campaign. What. The. Fuck.

Now, Rangel's old, he's distinguished, he's charming, he's witty, he's a war hero, and I find a bunch of things to admire about him. Representing Harlem, he has played a significant and often distinguished part in America's history. I would love to spend an hour, a day, or longer in the company of such an interesting and accomplished person. But as times and politics have changed, he lagged behind when it came to matters of patronage and Congressional ethics. Although he probably didn't try to enrich himself financially, he certainly took any benefits that came his way, and by prevailing standards did so in a corrupt fashion. The Republicans made hay out of the numerous and well-documented ethics allegations for more than 2 years, and you've got to figure it helped them pick up a good few votes at the last election, just as the Democrats stuck an ethical searchlight on the Republicans leading up to the 2006 election. And all this time the Democratic House leadership sheltered Rangel. Hell, there was barely a word about him on Metafilter - one unrelated passing mention in 2008, another in 2009, and a brief exchange acknowledging that he had earned the damage to his reputation during 2010. I'm as guilty of ignoring the issue as anyone, but then again I live on the west coast and have never been to NY - most of what I know about district politics there I have learned from NY MeFites.

I apologize if this seems like a 'dump on Charlie Rangel' derail; the guy was serving his country long before I was even born, and I've never even been near his district. But while we're complaining about GE have a tax bill of $0 because they spend plenty on lobbying, and when their relationship with Charles Rangel takes up a good third of the story, it's really pissing me off that he's been somehow exempt from any political criticism all this time. It's very hypocritical, to be blunt; we get upset when Republicans do that sort of thing, and rightly so, but we've been too embarrassed to deal with it in our own party. This is a big reason that we lost the House last November, only 4 years after winning control of it - a much bigger reason than the President's policymaking or Harry Reid's strategy plays in the Senate, if you ask me.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:28 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I also some what agree with radiosilents simplified perspective above, and the way to solve the problem of the richer influencing the poorer is to accept a basic level of wealth redistribution.

Of course wealth redistribution is one of those ideas that will probably get you shot in the near future.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:30 PM on March 25, 2011


I can't help but think the endgame is to starve small businesses of cash so hard that no one wants to own their own store when they grow up. Then the only employer in town is Walmart, and no one will remember it being any different.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2011


Of course wealth redistribution is one of those ideas that will probably get you shot in the near future.

You have any idea how many got shot the first time?
posted by clarknova at 2:55 PM on March 25, 2011


I don't really have the first clue about how we need to reform the corporate tax code, but I think that one thing that gets lost in these debates is the fact that corporate profits don't turn into pixie dust if they're not taxed and spent by the government. Despite the current popular misconception, the Supreme Court has not held that All Corporations Are the Same as People and, regardless, at some point all corporations are owned by individuals, and the profits of corporations flow to those individuals. Or the profits are spent, on new investments or bonuses to employees. Somehow there is this idea that if a corporation is making a profit, something is wrong, and I think that's wrong.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:59 PM on March 25, 2011


I was impressed when I heard Warren Buffet say that because he believes being a good corporate citizen means paying taxes, his holding company pays about 2% of all US corporate income tax.

Of course that's on roughly 2% of the US economy, so it's not like he's being overly generous or anything.

But it is possible to be a successful giant megacorporation without playing these games.
posted by miyabo at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


at some point all corporations are owned by individuals, and the profits of corporations flow to those individuals. Or the profits are spent, on new investments or bonuses to employees. Somehow there is this idea that if a corporation is making a profit, something is wrong, and I think that's wrong.

I don't think anyone's saying a corporation profitting is wrong, they are saying they should have to pay their fair share. Additionally, GE is a multinational and a lot of the profits/money you're talking about goes to shareholders, who are not necessarily American -- as such money generated in the USA can easily wind up elsewhere instead of being re-introduced into the American economy.
posted by Hoopo at 3:15 PM on March 25, 2011


Obviously the real problem with America's economy isn't extremely profitable corporations and their executives avoiding paying taxes, it isn't spending trillions on unnecessary wars...

... it's those lazy welfare bums who don't have jobs. And the illegal aliens who do have jobs. And Obamacare. And public school teachers that are ruining the economy. And regulators. Probably the gays and the climate scientists, and abortionists, too.
posted by Foosnark at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


We really need the guy who changes the Google search algorithm each week to go to work for the US Treasury dept to change the corporate tax code on a yearly basis is need be until it becomes cost prohibitive for corporations to pay tax lawyers to skirt the system.

Given that Google pays basically no tax over here in the UK, I suspect that guy is already working on tax codes, but not for our benefit. [They have things set up through a range of holding companies in different countries so that they pay some token tax in Ireland, even though their HQ and operations are in the UK].

Which is probably where your problems lie with GE - they've arranged things so that they pay tax in low-tax offshore jurisdictions. Reforming the US tax code, on its own, might have less impact than you guys think. We need to find a way to go after the tax havens as well.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:23 PM on March 25, 2011


codacorolla: "the tax accountant's response was "Well, if we had lower corporate taxes in America then they wouldn't have to shelter their income!""

He's wrong. Google (and lots of other corporations, especially tech and pharma companies with lots of IP to licence) operate basically administrative shells in countries such as Ireland with IP-friendly regimes and absurdly low nominal corporate tax rates (there, currently, 12.5%). But that 12.5% vig to the clientocracy that runs Ireland would still too much to stomach, so along with a lot of other corps with huge revenues, Google uses the Double Irish to wash its profits and thus to lower its effective rate down to something much more palatable: 2.4%. To a lot of business writers in Europe, especially in Britain, Ireland's image is increasingly that of a rather large tax pirate with a nicely manageable political class securely devoted to enabling corporate tax dodging on a massive scale. Ireland's experience shows that corporations won't settle for a rate that is in low double digits when they can buy enough influence to restructure the legal environment enabling them to finagle that rate down to low single digits or even zero-to-less-than-zero.
posted by meehawl at 3:39 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Okay, so, nothing in 2010. Got it.

Question then becomes, what did they pay in 2009? 2008? Do they pay no tax every year or have they other times got hit bad?

(Please advise if this has been addressed above or elsewhere. Too much verbiage for someone just called out the door.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:56 PM on March 25, 2011


Infinite Jest: We need to find a way to go after the tax havens as well.

Everywhere is a tax haven these days.
posted by Lleyam at 3:58 PM on March 25, 2011


3.2 billion = 64,000 50k/yr jobs.

Tell GE to take a hike, hire 64,000 people to build infrastructure, and get some of that 50k back in income taxes.

Money ahead.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:25 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Benny, you're such a socialist. Estates in the Hamptons and new Bugattis don't sell themselves!
posted by maxwelton at 6:25 PM on March 25, 2011


Just to be picky, you do realize that a 50k/yr job costs the company more like 75k after social security and benefits, yes?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:25 PM on March 25, 2011


Benefits? Really? People still get those? None of my past 4 jobs had any.

FICA (the tax which pays for Social Security) has a 6.2% employer contribution. That's only $3100 per year. Maybe a bit more for unemployment taxes, and a $50K job becomes, what? Certainly still under $60K a year.
posted by hippybear at 6:46 PM on March 25, 2011


I don't think anyone's saying a corporation profitting is wrong, they are saying they should have to pay their fair share. Additionally, GE is a multinational and a lot of the profits/money you're talking about goes to shareholders, who are not necessarily American -- as such money generated in the USA can easily wind up elsewhere instead of being re-introduced into the American economy.

I suspect on the balance that it's more likely to go the other way -- how many American investors are making a profit on foreign investments, which basically translates into taking money from foreigners?

Sorry to keep banging on the same drum, and these sorts of "grand bargains" never seem to happen in reality, but I really would like to trade corporate taxes for higher direct rates on high income earners.

Corporate taxes:
* impose the same effective rate on middle-class 401k's and hedge fund managers
* are easily avoidable by large corporations, with the side effect that they
* corrupt the political system by encouraging corporate bribery of politicians
* drive the cultivation of tax havens and tax-avoidance strategies, which are then open for use by individuals as well (much like drugs and illegal immigration cultivate import routes usable by terrorists and human traffickers)
* encourage companies to headquarter in countries with lower rates, and by the same token
* encourage investment in those countries

It just seems like a dumb way to try to raise money, with all sorts of obvious loopholes and lousy side effects.

And lest I give the impression that I'm "for" corporations, I think they're amoral and inhuman, and that we should treat them roughly the way we treat wild animals. But the way you treat wild animals is not to shame them or punish them or believe that you can change them, but to shape their environment so that they don't have access or incentive to do harm.
posted by bjrubble at 6:52 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Wake me when their level of self-serving greed at the expense of hard-working Americans rivals that of public school teachers."

Could someone explain what this is about? I know teachers are bad and unions are worse (or are teachers worse? I get this mixed up all the time), but I don't understand why this comment got 14 faves when this problem is an order of magnitude smaller than the issue of GE taking 3.2 billion in tax breaks. Is this a real thing?
posted by sneebler at 6:54 PM on March 25, 2011


sneebler: that comment was made ironically.
posted by hippybear at 6:57 PM on March 25, 2011


(as were a lot of other comments in this thread, actually)
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on March 25, 2011


I see - maybe I'm not used to the accent yet or something. Thanks!
posted by sneebler at 10:26 PM on March 25, 2011


Why isn't there some AMT for corporations? Say, 2% of revenues (not profit, revenue).

Philadelphia has that. It's called the 'gross receipts tax'. It is widely recognized as playing in a major role in the economic collapse of Philadelphia over the past 50 years.

Why? Because it means that every operating business must pay taxes even if is losing money. This means that if a business stumbles, or a recession happens, the business is less able to recover, and more likely to go under, or flee the city. Bye-bye tax base, bye-bye jobs. This also discourages start-up companies, which may take several years to become profitable.

This tax especially hard on companies that have large sales but thin profit margins. Example: supermarkets. It's one of the things that drives affordable supermarkets out of the inner city, and increases the costs, and therefore prices, of those that hang on.

I'm sure that none of these developments were anticipated by the politicians who passed the original gross receipts tax.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:24 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Late to the party, but a side note to the claim of corporations flocking to offshore.

The capacity of a company to offshore or outsource really depends on the type of company it is. Textiles are made in poor areas of southeast Asia because they do not require too much skill to produce. Steel production happens where it has access to coal, labor, and a means to ship its product. Silicon Valley exists where it does because people actively locate there to access talent, associate with other firms, and by and large feel like a part of a center of innovation. On top of this, the skilled workers that do R and D in the high tech industry like to live in California because, frankly, it is a damn fine place to live.

As was said earlier in the thread, corporations can move their headquarters, but as long as goods and services are being produced in the US, we he have an avenue to apply a fair tax to any transactions they are involved in.

And clarknova got it right, tariffs, taxes, and unions are indispensable for a sustainable economy in which fewer people are getting screwed.
posted by Wyatt at 12:37 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't really help that good old Jeffy Immelt is one of the top visitors to the Oval Office. Kinda makes it look as though their tax-free run was sorta in the bag the second Obama was elected, eh?
posted by CountSpatula at 6:58 PM on March 26, 2011


... when this problem is an order of magnitude smaller than the issue of GE taking 3.2 billion in tax breaks....

The "problem" is a fiction, inspired by terror at the oft-quoted line from Mao, "give me a child when he is 5 and he is mine for life" [paraphrased].

It's all about people who are afraid that their culture is being supplanted. And the bleeding-edge intellectualoids* of the radical pseudo-libertarian right (should we call them "NeoLibs"?) pick out teachers as the purveyors of the supplanting ideology, and seek to demonize them so thoroughly that they'll either toe the conservative cultural line, or be too terrified of retribution to dare utter any of their evil Maoist poison around the tender ears of the youth. That goes hand in hand with a fierce valorization of a non-existence past when Ward & June Cleaver taught their children everything they needed to know about right & wrong in a series of warm & touching homilies.

Nevermind the fact that teachers are surrogate parents as a direct result of the growth of the capitalist system that the radical right so valorizes, and that in their absence parents would be too busy working to prop up that system to actually do the kind of parenting the fantasies of these intellectualoids demand (and that furthermore, the system would suffer a profound and dramatic upset if we were to suddenly shift to the idealized Ward & June family-plan**).

Anyway, shorter summary: Teachers are evil because they're the tip of the Maoist spear. That's really it. It's got nothing much to do with stuff they've actually done.


--
*... to repurpose R. E. Tyrell's lovely turn of phrase right back at him.
*"Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night."
posted by lodurr at 5:43 AM on March 28, 2011


... tariffs, taxes, and unions are indispensable for a sustainable economy in which fewer people are getting screwed.

Someone with a more recent or better familiarity with Adam Smith could help out here by pointing to the section where he argues persuasively that capitalists will never be able to see this for themselves, and so the Crown needs to step in and make sure that things like tariffs, taxes, public education, etc. get handled. (No unions, of course. I'm sure Smith would have thought those were literally evil.)
posted by lodurr at 5:46 AM on March 28, 2011


In related news: Bank Of America Paid Nothing In Federal Income Taxes Last Year And Got Almost $1 Billion From Taxpayers.
posted by ericb at 9:53 AM on March 28, 2011


The "problem" is a fiction, inspired by terror at the oft-quoted line from Mao, "give me a child when he is 5 and he is mine for life" [paraphrased].

This is commonly attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, not Mao.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:08 AM on March 28, 2011


While I'm thinking that you'd get a different profile of 'approve' versus 'disapprove' depending on who you attribute it to, but I can tell you that this is definitely also commonly attributed to Mao -- that's how I have always heard it attributed.
posted by lodurr at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2011


Perhaps so; but even searching for ''give me a child' Mao' I didn't find an overt reference to Mao until the bottom of the third page (on Google), behind references to Lenin, Hitler, and (mostly) the Jesuits. Any of them may have repeated it, and probably did; versions of the saying stretch back to antiquity.

I was a bit surprised by your original comment because I've never seen this on any list of 'stock' Mao quotes (eg 'political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,' or 'women hold up half the sky.'), and I don't recall it being in the little red book either. That might be my faulty memory of course.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2011


After Paying Zero Income Taxes, GE Plans To Ask Its Union Workers To Make Wage And Benefits Concessions.
posted by ericb at 6:00 AM on March 29, 2011


Daily Show: I Give Up - Pay Anything... As greedy public workers bankrupt states, America makes it harder for honest corporate citizens to create jobs.
posted by homunculus at 12:03 PM on March 29, 2011


5 Ways GE Plays the Tax Game
posted by homunculus at 7:44 PM on April 4, 2011


From the Associated Press: Facing criticism over the amount of taxes it pays, General Electric announced it will repay its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury on April 18. ... The company, based in Fairfield, Conn., plans to phase out tax havens over 5 years and said it will create one job in the US for each new job it creates overseas.
posted by jedicus at 7:28 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, nevermind. It was a hoax that the AP fell for:

"General Electric Co. refuted a statement claiming the company would return a $3.2 billion tax refund for 2010.

“It is a hoax,” said Anne Eisele, a GE spokeswoman. The statement, which purported to be from GE Communications, claimed the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company was responding to a “public outcry” and would “allow the public to decide how to spend” the returned money."

Too good to be true, I guess.
posted by jedicus at 7:51 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


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