Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Congressional Aid to Multinationals Avoiding Taxes

The OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative is an effort by the G20 to curb the abuse of transfer pricing by multinationals. Senator Hatch is not a fan:
Throughout this process we have heard concerns from large sectors of the business community that the BEPS project could be used to further undermine our nation’s competitiveness and to unfairly subject U.S. companies to greater tax liabilities abroad. Companies have also been concerned about various reporting requirements that could impose significant compliance costs on American businesses and force them to share highly sensitive proprietary information with foreign governments. I expect that we’ll hear about these concerns from the business community and others during today’s hearing.
Indeed we heard from some lawyer representing The Software Coalition who was there to mansplain to us how BEPS is evil. I learned two startling things. First – Bermuda must be part of the US tax base. Secondly, if Google is expected to pay taxes in the UK, it will take all those 53,600 jobs which are mainly in California and move them to Bermuda:
in particular how the changes to the international tax rules as developed under BEPS will significantly reduce the U.S. tax base and create disincentives for U.S. multinational corporations (MNCs) to create R&D jobs in the United States
Yes – I find his testimony absurd at so many levels. Let’s take Google as an example. When they say foreign subsidiaries – think Bermuda. Over the past three year, Google’s income has average $15.876 billion per year but its income taxes have only average $2.933 billion for an effective tax rate of only 18.5%. How did that happen? Well – 55% of its income is sourced to these foreign subsidiaries and the average tax rate on this income is only 6.5%. Nice deal! Google’s tax model is not only easy to explain but is also a very common one for those in the Software Coalition. While all of the R&D is done in the U.S. and 45% of its sales are in the U.S. – U.S. source income is only 45% of worldwide income. Very little of the foreign sourced income ends up in places like the UK even 11% of Google’s sales are to UK customers. Only problem is that income ends up on Ireland’s books with the UK getting a very modest amount of the profits. Now you might be wondering how Google got to the foreign taxes to be only 6.5% of foreign sourced income since Ireland’s tax rate is 12.5%. But think Double Irish Dutch Sandwich and you’ll get how the profits ended up in Bermuda as well as perhaps a good lunch! But what about that repatriation tax you ask. Google’s most recent 10-K proudly notes:
“We have not provided U.S. income taxes and foreign withholding taxes on the undistributed earnings of foreign subsidiaries”.
In other words, they are not paying that repatriation tax. Besides the Republicans want to eliminate. Let’s be honest – Congress has hamstringed the IRS efforts to enforce transfer pricing. The BEPS initiative arose out of this failure. And now the Republicans in Congress are objecting to even these efforts. And if Europe has the temerity of expecting its fair share of taxes, U.S. multinationals will leave California and relocate in Bermuda? Who is this lawyer kidding?


Myrtle Blackwood said...

The development model in nation after nation is dependent upon global corporations. What is happening is simply a byproduct of this.

Jack said...

Would the problem of transfer mythical corporate location and the resulting lost taxes be resolved if taxes were based on point of revenue? Tax gross income where it is earned instead of taxing profits where they are not earned.