Posts Tagged ‘tax’

Apple Inc. have been paying an effective tax rate of under 2% in Ireland over the past decade.

There’s now a legal dispute over this, but not the way that you might think, or that might make any sense whatsoever. The question being disputed is actually whether the Irish government might be “forced to recoup tax” from the company. The state is apparently going out of its way to make sure this large international corporate behemoth doesn’t make any further contribution to public services.

I’m going to try to bear this in mind the next time the anarchist commentary on a news story about some capitalist atrocity seems a little over-the-top.

(Also, between scribbling the above and getting around to posting it: Facebook.)

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Still mostly on hiatus while existing in a state of half-packed limbo and ever-mounting impatience and bafflement at the convoluted antics of fucking mortgage underwriters. But chipping in with a quick thought.

I agree with the bulk of Alex Andreou’s latest column. I have little doubt that Jimmy Carr’s a bit of a twat, Gary Barlow’s a major bell-end, JK Rowling is fairly splendid, and David Cameron is a gammon-faced fuckbucket wankspangle with the face of a dish. This has broadly been the left’s characterisation of players in the latest celebrity tax avoidance psychodrama, and it seems largely acceptable to me.

But as a recovering liberal, I have to keep reminding myself to get the fuck over this fixation with paying your taxes as being the ultimate expression of civic duty and compassion for your fellow countryfolk.

My corner of the internet’s been all a-twitter lately with quotes from Rowling in particular – transcribed next to a picture of her in a way that apparently constitutes an inspirational piece of art – describing how obligated she feels to her home country, and how privileged she feels to be able to give something back to the land which supported her when she was going through hard times, now that she has the means to support others in the same way. This is an under-appreciated point among many rich people, and is commendable and warm and fuzzy and all that.

But if JK Rowling, driven by a desire to help those less fortunate than herself and ease the burdens of those troubled by circumstance, cannot think of any more effective way to achieve this goal than to give vast sums of money to David Cameron, George Osborne, and Iain Fucking Duncan Fucking Smith, to let them spend it doing what they think is best for the country…

…then she appears to have been stricken by a colossal and uncharacteristic lack of imagination since the last time she set pen to paper.

Look, giving something back to your fellow man is a great and important thing, and paying your taxes so that government social programmes can be funded is sometimes one way of doing that, but if it’s the best way, or the only way, then we’re all fucked. The very fact that charities exist and solicit donations directly should tell you that helping people directly without letting a bunch of politicians get involved has a lot going for it.

Which isn’t, as I can tell you’re already objecting, simply the standard right-libertarian argument in favour of letting private organisations fix all society’s ills on their own. We absolutely need to have a national and collaborative way of supporting the less well-off, and leaving it all to the presumptive benevolence of an Ayn Rand fan’s idea of the “free market” is absolutely not it. But we need to stop clinging to the notion that letting people gather thousands of lifetimes’ worth of wealth to themselves, then having the state claw half of it back again before redistributing it among its own pet projects, is a good enough solution that we can stop working on anything better.

JK Rowling is most likely a good person acting kindly toward people. And the result of her doing this is that the coalition government, which is slashing benefits and demonising the poor across the board, is now better funded to embark on whatever projects it chooses to spend taxpayer money on.

Gary Barlow’s probably a cock. But – although the double-standards of the government and the extent to which tax avoidance by the wealthy gets a free pass are serious problems which imply a need for monumental systemic change – keeping your money out of George Osborne’s coffers is something you should be aspiring to as well. And it’s not incompatible with a dedication to providing compassion and assistance for other people.

You just need to be less of a cock than Gary Barlow. How hard can that be?

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Serious question.

This is about the whole 47% thing, obviously. And I genuinely want to know. His thoughts: what were they?

The picture he’s painting for his audience of $50,000-a-plate party-goers is, after all, a wildly inaccurate one. Nearly half of the entire country, he tells them, are “dependent on government”, don’t pay any income tax, think they’re “entitled” to things like food and healthcare, will never “take personal responsibility” for their lives, and will vote for Obama “no matter what”.

He doesn’t use the word “moochers”, or any term so overtly provocative, but it’s clear what he’s trying to communicate. The image is one of millions of slobs and layabouts, who can’t be bothered putting down their beer and getting off the couch to do an honest day’s work, and who expect you good, hard-working people to take care of them and pay for their pampered lifestyle, which the black guy’s going to make you do if we let him stay in office.

It’s clear simply from the tone of voice what we’re meant to think about people who feel “entitled” to anything (notwithstanding the incredibly narrow definition of “entitled” within which it’s assumed to be about the worst trait a human can possess). He doesn’t call them all feckless scum, because he doesn’t need to. (In fact, a Pennsylvania legislator – unconnected to the Romney campaign, as far as I know – did recently paraphrase his speech in rather more stark language.)

And yet, it’s bullshit.

For starters, even if the 47% statistic were meaningful, the judgment he leaps to from it is ideological and severely lacking in compassion. The idea that money is a useful measure of a person’s value, or of how much they deserve to be fed and clothed and treated when they’re sick, is comical enough already – but federal income tax? Jesus wept.

But I didn’t even need to do my usual bare minimum level of research, before the internet pointed out to me that most of the 47% do pay taxes in other forms, like payroll taxes, unless they’re retired or getting paid a pittance; that these payroll-tax-payers actually contribute a greater proportion of their income than Romney does; that people who don’t pay income tax actually tend to vote Republican; that the entities most “dependent on government” in history continue to be banks and corporations; and so on, and so on.

So… does Romney just not know any of this stuff?

I mean, I’m about as connected to American politics as he is to the administration of the pension schemes of London-based multinational law firms (whee, I have a job), but even I can get my head around the evidence suggesting that every second person in the United States isn’t a good-for-nothing scrounger being courted for their vote by a socialist President while the other half effectively wait on them hand and foot. Can Mitt Romney really not have picked up any of this information himself?

I know he’s a busy man, but the internet’s even drawn him a picture:

Does he really not know this stuff? It hardly seems plausible.

And yet, if he really has ever encountered these, y’know, facts, but still chooses to use this kind of manipulative language to dismiss any concern for the well-being of 150,000,000 people as “not his job”…

…then what is it that he’s thinking, when he talks like this?

Because it looks a lot like he’s thinking that he knows the crowd he’s playing to, and they don’t much care whatever happens to those poor people so long as their own interests are being looked after, and he’s okay with that.

He’s in a room full of other rich white guys, who all seem to think they made their fortunes entirely through their own personal merits, and it’s purely a coincidence that just about every one of them happens to be white and male and had rich, well connected parents. Assuming Romney’s not entirely ignorant of basic facts, it looks like he’s thinking that he wants to keep them happy and take their money more than he wants to engage in any kind of intellectual honesty about income inequality and the injustices of capitalism.

So either he’s deeply isolated in a bubble that’s non-permeable to significant portions of reality, or he thinks lying about half of the country that he wants to rule over is worth doing to meet his own goals.

When Mitt Romney says “47% of people aren’t contributing”… does he mean “47% of people are effectively contributing to a wealthy minority, by means of not being paid the full value of their labour in the first place”?

Does he mean “47% of people find my policies completely unappealing and wouldn’t be helped by them at all, suggesting that I might not be an ideal candidate to lead the entire country as I think I should be allowed to do”?

Does he mean “47% of people’s contributions – and, by extension, their lives – seem completely worthless to the people who want to run the country”?

This turned into more of a run-of-the-mill anti-Republican rant than I was hoping for. And Obama shills for cash just as shamelessly and has murdered a lot more foreigners than Romney, so maybe this isn’t even that big a deal. Just another familiar instance of a series of systemic problems that no mainstream politician even comes close to wanting to solve. I don’t know.

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– Odd how there’s always an argument from somewhere that we should be taking less money away from rich people, on the grounds that they’ll end up giving more back to us that way somehow anyway.

Pro-life love, from another angle.

– Oh look, something I can agree with Obama on. Assuming Santorum’s not just talking gibberish again.

– Burzynski still hasn’t provided any data that his treatments can actually do anything to fight cancer. But thanks to his overly trusting patients’ continued generosity, the guy’s doing alright for himself.

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Spending much time examining the attitudes of, say, Fox News, on the subject of the rich and the poor, can very quickly become very illuminating.

It’s not just Fox, by any means, but they’re among the most prominent apologists for the classism and wealth gap in America. They’re among those devoting serious airtime to bewailing the nightmare of hotel housekeepers earning as much as $60,000 a year, while simultaneously complaining about the unfairness of Obama’s tax policy on those poor souls earning over $250,000, who are really struggling to get by.

What I think it illuminates is just how narrow a band of ideas people like this are actually interested in.

They don’t care to extrapolate downwards and consider, if a couple earning a quarter-million annually is having such a tough time, how much of a struggle it must be for people on one tenth of that income (which is still well above minimum wage). They don’t consider the reasons why the free market might value these housekeepers’ work at $60,000 a year, although they’re happy to assume that investment bankers earning hundreds of times that deserve every penny. They ignore how difficult and specialised a job the staff in this particular hotel might actually have, how good they might be at it, how many specific skills they might have acquired and honed. They seem oblivious to how negligible an impact this supposedly flagrant expenditure actually has on the economy as a whole, and don’t explain why we ought to be concerned that this money is somehow being misspent.

There doesn’t, in fact, seem to be a single economic consideration being given to the matter. It doesn’t even occur to them to consider it on that level.

No, they’ve just got a very clear idea of the kind of people who do this sort of work, and what sort of rewards they do and don’t deserve, based on how they feel about them.

Housekeeping is something poor people do, and should be treated as such. It’s just housework. A lowly thing for lowly people. $60,000 a year just feels like too much. More than they deserve. More than I want to see them getting for that lowly work they do. They’re only housekeepers.

But businessmen earning comfortably into six figures? Well, now, they’re more our sort of people, and you just wouldn’t believe the hard time they’re having at the moment, what with taxes and housing costs and private schools and daycare and sundry other vital expenses, and it’s so unfair the way people think they’re part of some privileged majority.

It’s not like a couple of hundred grand a year means you’re not allowed to have problems. But the way those problems are framed compared to other people’s can reveal a lot about your real priorities.

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Corporate tax rates are at a low, their profits are at a high, and the gap between the pay CEOs claim for themselves and what they let the workers share is growing ever wider.

Satan is much more powerful than God. Or, God is evil. One or t’other, Christians.

– Plainclothes police officer is spotted by CCTV operator – who tells the officer to pursue the man he can see “acting suspiciously”. Hilarity ensues for the next twenty minutes.

The geek social fallacies of sex.

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It sometimes feels like there’s no shortage of discussion about the unfairness of the government’s attacks on “benefits scroungers” on the interwebs, but when the problem will persist quite as enduringly and damagingly as this one perhaps that’s not surprising, and to be encouraged.

Of course, it’s not all the Tories’ fault. As a number of recent articles, such as those by Owen Jones and the Stumbling and Mumbling blog, have highlighted, Labour are also keen to enter the fray in battling this “evil” which haunts our land.

The thing is, this particular brand of government policy – the kind which doesn’t seem to take a position on the sweetheart deals that effectively let big corporations avoid paying huge tax bills, while cutting off support to thousands of terminally ill individuals – doesn’t even make sense on an ideological level.

The fury against “benefits scroungers” and work-shy layabouts supposedly milking the system purports to be concerned with our vital and scarce resources being unjustly drained from our troubled coffers. But there are far more legitimate benefits going unclaimed than there are illegitimate funds being lost to fraud, and both numbers are dwarfed by the costs of tax-avoidance.

If people’s outrage was solely or primarily motivated by economic concern, there wouldn’t be nearly as much focus and emphasis on the idea of the undeserving benefits claimant as there is, nor would the stereotype be so widespread.

The fact is, there are some people it’s just easier to feel contempt for.

You don’t need to be particularly choosy in selecting a tabloid to let fall open at random if you want a fair chance of reading something about people who don’t work as hard as you but get nicer stuff than you do because of Britain’s broken entitlements programme. And yet, the average available job in this country currently has twenty-three different people trying to get it.

The number of job-hunters looking for work includes the 67,000 public sector workers who lost their jobs in a three-month period last year. People who clearly were willing and able to do work that the government considers useful and important, but who now find that option no longer available to them.

The common “benefits scroungers” generalisation is a corrosive one, when you take any kind of detailed look at the demographics of people currently out of work. The idea that these people are a significant cause of the country’s problems, rather than unemployment being a symptom of much more complex issues, is laughable.

But the viscerally infuriating and frightening image of some chavvy youth with a hoody and a threatening regional accent, who just wants free hand-outs to spend on booze and wouldn’t know a work ethic if it slapped him in the face, is one that it’s hard to completely abandon.

And “evil” is not a word I can recall being applied to, say, tax-evading or -avoiding corporate activity, by any prominent politician.

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