30% αυξήθηκαν οι πάγοι στην Αρκτική από την…«υπερθέρμανση», που τώρα την αποκαλούν «Κλιματική Αλλαγή», λες και σταμάτησε ποτέ να αλλάζει το κλίμα, από τότε που δημιουργήθηκε ο πλανήτης.
Όπως με τον ΤΟΚΟ, δημιουργούν ΠΛΟΥΤΟ γι’ αυτούς, από το πουθενά, έτσι κι από την ΑΝΥΠΑΡΚΤΗ υπερθέρμανση δημιούργησαν έναν ΥΠΑΡΚΤΟ φόρο, που πληρώνουμε όλοι μας στους λογαριασμούς της ΔΕΗ, για τον οποίο μάλιστα επιβαρυνόμαστε και με ΦΠΑ!
Όπως βάζουν τόκο στους τόκους, έτσι βάζουν και φόρο στους φόρους.
Αρχαιότατες επινοήσεις των περιούσιων που ΠΑΝΤΑ αποδίδουν και κανείς δεν αντιλαμβάνεται ότι κάτι δεν πάει καλά.
Παρομοίως, αντί η κατοχή ενός αυτοκινήτου να αποτελεί αποδεικτικό εξασφαλισμένων δαπανών κι εξόδων, που εκπίπτουν από το εισόδημα, έχει μετατραπεί σε αποδεικτικό ΕΣΟΔΩΝ (!) που ΑΥΞΑΝΕΙ το συνολικό εισόδημα και άρα τον ανάλογο σχετικό φόρο.
Δηλαδή βγάζεις 3000 ευρώ κι έχεις αυτοκίνητο…
Δηλαδή σου μένουν 2000 ευρώ αφαιρώντας σέρβις, ασφάλεια και βενζίνες και το κράτος αντί να σε φορολογήσει για τα λιγοστά καθαρά κι εναπομείναντα 2000 ευρώ, σε φορολογεί για φανταστικά, υποθετικά κι αναπόδεικτα εισοδήματα 6000 ευρώ, που βαπτίζει αυθαίρετα «αντικειμενικά», για να νομίζεις ότι είναι …δίκαια.
Έτσι καλύπτουν τις τεράστιες τρύπες στα έσοδα του κράτους από την επική φοροδιαφυγή των πολυεθνικών, των offshore και της συμμορίας της λίστας Λαγκάρντ.
Πληρώνοντας φόρο στα ΕΞΟΔΑ αντί στα έσοδα, πληρώνοντας φόρο στον ΦΟΡΟ και πληρώνοντας τόκο στους ΤΟΚΟΥΣ (πανωτόκια), παίρνουν από τις ίδιες ανυπεράσπιστες τσέπες υπερπολλαπλάσια χρήματα .
Τα λαμόγια με τις Offshore των κοτερούχων της Μυκόνου και της Εκάλης δηλώνουν …άποροι.
Αλλά τώρα με τις αυξήσεις που πήραν οι Δικαστικοί, που μπορούσαν να ανατρέψουν παράνομα νομοσχέδια, μην περιμένετε ΚΑΝΕΝΑ ΕΛΕΟΣ.
Αν μπορούν να μας βάλουν και φόρο για το αμάρτημα της Εύας, θα το κάνουν χωρίς ΚΑΝΕΝΑΝ θεσμό να τους εμποδίσει.
[vimeo 9092816 w=600&h=330]
Υ.Γ. To ξέρατε ότι τα LIDL ανήκουν σε ΜΚΟ;
German Billionaire Schwarz Seen Having Tax-Exempt Fortune
On a recent Saturday afternoon at a Lidl supermarket in London, a 500-gram slab of minced beef was on sale for 2 pounds ($3.21), half the price of the same product at a Sainsbury Local store a few blocks away.
Offering such bargains has made Dieter Schwarz a very rich man. Through his Neckarsulm, Germany-based Schwarz Group, the 73-year-old billionaire controls more than 9,800 Lidl supermarkets and 1,070 Kaufland discount stores in 26 European countries. The operation generated 63.4 billion euros ($82.3 billion) in sales last year, making it the largest closely held food retailer in Europe. Schwarz, the 34th richest person in the world, is worth $19.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Schwarz controls his discount empire through the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH, a tax-exempt entity designated as a gemeinnuetzige Gesellschaft mit beschraenkter Haftung, or limited liability company with a charitable purpose.
“There are about 19,000 foundations that hold more than 100 million euros in Germany,” said Stefan Stolte, a lawyer with DSZ-MAECENATA Management GmbH, a Munich-based stiftung advisory firm. “There are far fewer that are established as a gGmbH. Both concepts are legitimate, but the use of the Schwarz model — where little is going into the public benefit — is looked upon very critically.”
A gGmbH is often used to protect against hostile takeovers or family members selling the company. Like all charitable foundations in Germany, it can also be used to fund sports teams and political activities. In addition, gGmbHs aren’t subject to many aspects of civil law regulation and, in rare instances, can even have their tax-exempt status removed altogether.
Stolte estimates there are 100 to 300 gGmbHs in Germany. Four of the country’s 10 richest people hold at least part of their fortunes through the structure: Schwarz and the three co- founders of Walldorf, Germany-based SAP AG (SAP), the world’s largest maker of business-management software.
Schwarz transferred his shares in Lidl and Kaufland into the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung in 1999, “to secure the existence of the company,” said Gertrud Bott, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail. Schwarz no longer owns the shares, the gGmbH does, she said. He is credited with the fortune because he controls the shares owned by the gGmbH, according to the ranking. He declined to comment for this account.
According to filings with the German government, the Schwarz gGmbH donated almost 70 million euros from 2008 to 2010 to charitable causes, including a science center and a university campus in Heilbronn, a city in southwest Germany where he became an honorary citizen in 2007, and where he lives with his wife, Franziska.
Bott said the gGmbH has more than 30 million euros designated for charitable giving. That sum is about 0.2 percent of Schwarz’s net worth, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In Germany, a traditional stiftung is governed under German civil law and receives tax-exempt status by the local tax authority under German fiscal code. A gGmbH is formed under German commercial statutes, offers its creators greater funding flexibility and is not required to preserve its assets, said Anna Katharina Gollan, a legal and tax adviser at the Berlin- based law firm, Pollath & Partners.
Voting shareholders of a gGmbH can also change the causes it funds and have the ability to dissolve the entity and transfer its assets into another tax-exempt structure. Gollan said she knew of at least one case of a gGmbH eliminating its tax-exempt status.
There is no legal precedent of dissolving a gGmbH to fund commercial pursuits. Any attempt to do so, Stolte said, would result in the need for the founder to pay retroactive income, gift, inheritance and value-added taxes.
Traditional foundations and gGmbHs in Germany don’t have minimum annual giving requirements. They are required to spend any profits by the end of the fiscal year it was accrued, and are allowed to build capital reserves totaling 10 percent of annual donations or 33 percent of dividends received.
In Europe, there are several varieties of stiftungs, which are the equivalent of foundations or trusts in the U.S. In Liechtenstein and Austria, the structure exists to keep assets from flowing to other countries, Stolte said.
To achieve tax-exempt status under the fiscal code, both forms of German foundations need to show intent to pursue activities that benefit the public and their ability to execute on those goals. Similar to the U.S. tax code, any assets pledged to the foundation must be pledged irrevocably, said Stolte.
Schwarz’s father, Josef, got his start in retail in the 1930s, when he and a partner created what became grocer Lidl & Schwarz KG; their store was destroyed in World War II, according to the Kaufland website.
Schwarz’s partner left the company in 1951. Dieter Schwarz joined the family business after finishing high school, and struck out on his own more than two decades later, opening the first Lidl discount store in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1973.
To avoid using “Schwarzmarkt,” which means black market in German, Schwarz purchased the rights to the Lidl name for 1,000 Deutsche Mark, about $500 at the time, according to the company. Schwarz modeled his Lidl stores after the discount supermarkets Aldi Sued and Aldi Nord, which sell a limited assortment of goods at low prices. Aldi Sued is owned by Karl Albrecht, Germany’s richest man.
Schwarz inherited his father’s stores after he died in 1977. He opened the first Kaufland hypermarket — similar to a Wal-Mart store in the U.S. in size and prices — in Neckarsulm seven years later. The Schwarz Group opened the first Lidl stores outside Germany in 1988.
Schwarz stepped down from day-to-day management and split his retail empire in 1999. According to an organizational chart provided by Bott, 99.9 percent of Schwarz’s economic interests in Lidl and Kaufland were transferred to the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH, while all of the companies’ voting rights went to the Schwarz Unternehmenstreuhand KG, a Neckarsulm-based decision-making body, also known as the SUT.
The structure separates economic and operational control, according to Dr. Hedda Hoffmann-Steudner, the head of the legal department at Berlin-based Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen. The legal construct became popular in the 1990s to safeguard companies from hostile takeovers and family members who might sell them after their founder died.
“Dieter Schwarz chose it because he wanted to keep his whole company in neutral hands,” said Hoffmann-Steudner. “If he dies, the whole complex of the two companies can continue without being centered on him as the main leader.”
The SUT’s eight board members, headed by Klaus Gehrig, control the Schwarz Group’s business decisions. The gGmbH has six voting shareholders who preside over the entity’s charitable activities.
Three years before the company’s restructuring, Schwarz gave power of attorney over his fortune to Hermann-Josef Hoffmann, according to a 1996 notarized document. Hoffmann, 56, represents the Dieter Schwarz TV-Vermoegensverwaltung GmbH — Schwarz’s asset management vehicle — on the boards of the gGmbH and the SUT. It is “responsible for the execution of the will and becomes operative after the death of Dieter Schwarz,” according to Bott.
Decisions regarding control over the gGmbH cannot be made without Hoffmann’s consent, according to its statute and shareholders list. Schwarz is also on the gGmbH’s board, representing another stiftung that carries his name. Unlike the gGmbH, this entity does not have a charitable designation.
Schwarz is an honorary member of the SUT and has veto power over its investments. The SUT decides how much money goes to the gGmbH, according to Bott. It can also determine how much Schwarz gets paid. The company didn’t respond to questions sent in an e- mail from Bloomberg News regarding Schwarz’s compensation.
There’s no legal minimum amount that an operating company is required to distribute to the gGmbH, according to Hoffmann- Steudner. Bott declined to comment on how much money the SUT has given to the gGmbH since 1999.
The fact that there is no minimum-giving requirement could lead to people abusing gGmbHs, Hoffmann-Steudner said. She advocates that donations to a gGmbH should be proportional to a company’s profitability.
“There was some discussion about whether or not these kinds of foundations were legal at all,” said Stolte. “They are legal, but I think there is an ethical problem when you have this foundation that is seen as providing a public benefit but in legal form it is really established to protect the company from takeover and inheritance taxes.”
Klaus Tschira, 71, who founded SAP in 1972 along with four other partners, including billionaires Hasso Plattner, 68, and Dietmar Hopp, 72, gave the majority of his stake in the company to the Klaus Tschira Stiftung in 1995. The Heidelberg-based gGmbH has donated about 200 million euros to science, math and technology causes since its inception, according to its spokeswoman, Renate Ries.
According to a February 2011 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tschira controls the voting rights as well as dispositive powers over the SAP shares that are held by his gGmbH foundation. Tschira said he doesn’t own the SAP shares he pledged to his foundation, and that they will remain designated for public benefit.
Plattner and Hopp also hold shares in gGmbHs. In 1996, Plattner, Hopp and another founding partner, Hans-Werner Hector, transferred 38 percent of their holdings into foundations established by each and a trust managed by Hector. Reports at the time stated that the move was aimed at maintaining the company’s independence “beyond the generation of its founders.”
In an October 5 e-mail to Bloomberg News, Tschira said there are various ways a gGmbH might fund charitable causes under German law.
“The list of tax-exempt purposes is indeed long, but that does not mean a stiftung may pursue any of them at will,” he said in an e-mail. “If you claim to fund art, it’s OK to pay an artist or an orchestra but it would most probably be not allowed to fund a dance band. Likewise, political education is OK — you could even agitate against the neo-Nazis under the cover of education for democracy, but funding specific parties would not be allowable.”
Google 2.4% Rate Shows How $60 Billion Is Lost to Tax Loopholes
Google Inc. (GOOG) cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda.
Google’s income shifting — involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” — helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies by market capitalization, according to regulatory filings in six countries.
“It’s remarkable that Google’s effective rate is that low,” said Martin A. Sullivan, a tax economist who formerly worked for the U.S. Treasury Department. “We know this company operates throughout the world mostly in high-tax countries where the average corporate rate is well over 20 percent.”
The U.S. corporate income-tax rate is 35 percent. In the U.K., Google’s second-biggest market by revenue, it’s 28 percent.
Google, the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, uses a strategy that has gained favor among such companies as Facebook Inc. (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) Corp. The method takes advantage of Irish tax law to legally shuttle profits into and out of subsidiaries there, largely escaping the country’s 12.5 percent income tax. (See an interactive graphic on Google’s tax strategy here.)
The earnings wind up in island havens that levy no corporate income taxes at all. Companies that use the Double Irish arrangement avoid taxes at home and abroad as the U.S. government struggles to close a projected $1.4 trillion budget gap and European Union countries face a collective projected deficit of 868 billion euros.
Google, the third-largest U.S. technology company by market capitalization, hasn’t been accused of breaking tax laws. “Google’s practices are very similar to those at countless other global companies operating across a wide range of industries,” said Jane Penner, a spokeswoman for the Mountain View, California-based company. Penner declined to address the particulars of its tax strategies.
Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, is preparing a structure similar to Google’s that will send earnings from Ireland to the Cayman Islands, according to the company’s filings in Ireland and the Caymans and to a person familiar with its plans. A spokesman for the Palo Alto, California-based company declined to comment.
The tactics of Google and Facebook depend on “transfer pricing,” paper transactions among corporate subsidiaries that allow for allocating income to tax havens while attributing expenses to higher-tax countries. Such income shifting costs the U.S. government as much as $60 billion in annual revenue, according to Kimberly A. Clausing, an economics professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
U.S. Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, and other politicians say the 35 percent U.S. statutory rate is too high relative to foreign countries. International income-shifting, which helped cut Google’s overall effective tax rate to 22.2 percent last year, shows one way that loopholes undermine that top U.S. rate.
Two thousand U.S. companies paid a median effective cash rate of 28.3 percent in federal, state and foreign income taxes in a 2005 study by academics at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina. The combined national-local statutory rate is 34.4 percent in France, 30.2 percent in Germany and 39.5 percent in Japan, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Double Irish
As a strategy for limiting taxes, the Double Irish method is “very common at the moment, particularly with companies with intellectual property,” said Richard Murphy, director of U.K.- based Tax Research LLP. Murphy, who has worked on similar transactions, estimates that hundreds of multinationals use some version of the method.
The high corporate tax rate in the U.S. motivates companies to move activities and related income to lower-tax countries, said Irving H. Plotkin, a senior managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s national tax practice in Boston. He delivered a presentation in Washington, D.C. this year titled “Transfer Pricing is Not a Four Letter Word.”
“A company’s obligation to its shareholders is to try to minimize its taxes and all costs, but to do so legally,” Plotkin said in an interview.
Google’s transfer pricing contributed to international tax benefits that boosted its earnings by 26 percent last year, company filings show. Based on a rough analysis, if the company paid taxes at the 35 percent rate on all its earnings, its share price might be reduced by about $100, said Clayton Moran, an analyst at Benchmark Co. in Boca Raton, Florida. He recommends buying Google stock, which closed yesterday at $607.98.
The company, which tells employees “don’t be evil” in its code of conduct, has cut its effective tax rate abroad more than its peers in the technology sector: Apple Inc. (AAPL), the maker of the iPhone; Microsoft, the largest software company; International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), the biggest computer-services provider; and Oracle Corp. (ORCL), the second-biggest software company. Those companies reported rates that ranged between 4.5 percent and 25.8 percent for 2007 through 2009.
Google is “flying a banner of doing no evil, and then they’re perpetrating evil under our noses,” said Abraham J. Briloff, a professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch College in New York who has examined Google’s tax disclosures.
“Who is it that paid for the underlying concept on which they built these billions of dollars of revenues?” Briloff said. “It was paid for by the United States citizenry.”
The U.S. National Science Foundation funded the mid-1990s research at Stanford University that helped lead to Google’s creation. Taxpayers also paid for a scholarship for the company’s cofounder, Sergey Brin, while he worked on that research. Google now has a stock market value of $194.2 billion.
Google’s annual reports from 2007 to 2009 ascribe a cumulative $3.1 billion tax savings to the “foreign rate differential.” Such entries typically describe how much tax U.S. companies save from profits earned overseas.
In February, the Obama administration proposed measures to curb shifting profits offshore, part of a package intended to raise $12 billion a year over the coming decade. While the key proposals largely haven’t advanced in Congress, the IRS said in April it would devote additional agents and lawyers to focus on five large transfer pricing arrangements.
Income shifting commonly begins when companies like Google sell or license the foreign rights to intellectual property developed in the U.S. to a subsidiary in a low-tax country. That means foreign profits based on the technology get attributed to the offshore unit, not the parent. Under U.S. tax rules, subsidiaries must pay “arm’s length” prices for the rights — or the amount an unrelated company would.
Because the payments contribute to taxable income, the parent company has an incentive to set them as low as possible. Cutting the foreign subsidiary’s expenses effectively shifts profits overseas.
After three years of negotiations, Google received approval from the IRS in 2006 for its transfer pricing arrangement, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The IRS gave its consent in a secret pact known as an advanced pricing agreement. Google wouldn’t discuss the price set under the arrangement, which licensed the rights to its search and advertising technology and other intangible property for Europe, the Middle East and Africa to a unit called Google Ireland Holdings, according to a person familiar with the matter.
That licensee in turn owns Google Ireland Limited, which employs almost 2,000 people in a silvery glass office building in central Dublin, a block from the city’s Grand Canal. The Dublin subsidiary sells advertising globally and was credited by Google with 88 percent of its $12.5 billion in non-U.S. sales in 2009.
Allocating the revenue to Ireland helps Google avoid income taxes in the U.S., where most of its technology was developed. The arrangement also reduces the company’s liabilities in relatively high-tax European countries where many of its customers are located.
The profits don’t stay with the Dublin subsidiary, which reported pretax income of less than 1 percent of sales in 2008, according to Irish records. That’s largely because it paid $5.4 billion in royalties to Google Ireland Holdings, which has its “effective centre of management” in Bermuda, according to company filings.
Law Firm Directors
This Bermuda-managed entity is owned by a pair of Google subsidiaries that list as their directors two attorneys and a manager at Conyers Dill & Pearman, a Hamilton, Bermuda law firm.
Tax planners call such an arrangement a Double Irish because it relies on two Irish companies. One pays royalties to use intellectual property, generating expenses that reduce Irish taxable income. The second collects the royalties in a tax haven like Bermuda, avoiding Irish taxes.
To steer clear of an Irish withholding tax, payments from Google’s Dublin unit don’t go directly to Bermuda. A brief detour to the Netherlands avoids that liability, because Irish tax law exempts certain royalties to companies in other EU-member nations. The fees first go to a Dutch unit, Google Netherlands Holdings B.V., which pays out about 99.8 percent of what it collects to the Bermuda entity, company filings show. The Amsterdam-based subsidiary lists no employees.
The Dutch Sandwich
Inserting the Netherlands stopover between two other units gives rise to the “Dutch Sandwich” nickname.
“The sandwich leaves no tax behind to taste,” said Murphy of Tax Research LLP.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, has also used a Double Irish structure, according to company filings overseas. Forest Laboratories Inc. (FRX), maker of the antidepressant Lexapro, does as well, Bloomberg News reported in May. The New York-based drug manufacturer claims that most of its profits are earned overseas even though its sales are almost entirely in the U.S. Forest later disclosed that its transfer pricing was being audited by the IRS.
Since the 1960s, Ireland has pursued a strategy of offering tax incentives to attract multinationals. A lesser-appreciated aspect of Ireland’s appeal is that it allows companies to shift income out of the country with minimal tax consequences, said Jim Stewart, a senior lecturer in finance at Trinity College’s school of business in Dublin.
Getting Profits Out
“You accumulate profits within Ireland, but then you get them out of the country relatively easily,” Stewart said. “And you do it by using Bermuda.”
Eoin Dorgan, a spokesman for the Irish Department of Finance, declined to comment on Google’s strategies specifically. “Ireland always seeks to ensure that the profits charged in Ireland fully reflect the functions, assets and risks located here by multinational groups,” he said.
Once Google’s non-U.S. profits hit Bermuda, they become difficult to track. The subsidiary managed there changed its legal form of organization in 2006 to become a so-called unlimited liability company. Under Irish rules, that means it’s not required to disclose such financial information as income statements or balance sheets.
“Sticking an unlimited company in the group structure has become more common in Ireland, largely to prevent disclosure,” Stewart said.
Technically, multinationals that shift profits overseas are deferring U.S. income taxes, not avoiding them permanently. The deferral lasts until companies decide to bring the earnings back to the U.S. In practice, they rarely repatriate significant portions, thus avoiding the taxes indefinitely, said Michelle Hanlon, an accounting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
U.S. policy makers, meanwhile, have taken halting steps to address concerns about transfer pricing. In 2009, the Treasury Department proposed levying taxes on certain payments between U.S. companies’ foreign subsidiaries.
Treasury officials, who estimated the policy change would raise $86.5 billion in new revenue over the next decade, dropped it after Congress and Treasury were lobbied by companies, including manufacturing and media conglomerate General Electric Co. (GE), health-product maker Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and coffee giant Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), according to federal disclosures compiled by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics.
While the administration “remains concerned” about potential abuses, officials decided “to defer consideration of how to reform those rules until they can be studied more broadly,” said Sandra Salstrom, a Treasury spokeswoman. The White House still proposes to tax excessive profits of offshore subsidiaries as a curb on income shifting, she said.
The rules for transfer pricing should be replaced with a system that allocates profits among countries the way most U.S. states with a corporate income tax do — based on such aspects as sales or number of employees in each jurisdiction, said Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, director of the international tax program at the University of Michigan Law School.
“The system is broken and I think it needs to be scrapped,” said Avi-Yonah, also a special counsel at law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington D.C. “Companies are getting away with murder.”
Google, Amazon, Starbucks: The rise of ‘tax shaming’
Global firms such as Starbucks, Google and Amazon have come under fire for avoiding paying tax on their British sales. There seems to be a growing culture of naming and shaming companies. But what impact does it have?
Companies have long had complicated tax structures, but a recent spate of stories has highlighted a number of tax-avoiding firms that are not seen to be playing their part.
Starbucks, for example, had sales of £400m in the UK last year, but paid no corporation tax. It transferred some money to a Dutch sister company in royalty payments, bought coffee beans from Switzerland and paid high interest rates to borrow from other parts of the business.
Amazon, which had sales in the UK of £3.35bn in 2011, only reported a “tax expense” of £1.8m.
And Google’s UK unit paid just £6m to the Treasury in 2011 on UK turnover of £395m.
Everything these companies are doing is legal. It’s avoidance and not evasion.
But the tide of public opinion is visibly turning. Even 10 years ago news of a company minimising its corporation tax would have been more likely to be inside the business pages than on the front page.
What changed? And is “shaming” of companies justifiable and effective?
Momentum has been growing for the last few years.
In September 2009, the Observer ran with the headline: “Avoiding tax robs our public services, declares minister”. The paper reported that the government was planning to say tax is a “moral issue” and that it was “determined to end avoidance and evasion.”
October 2010 – and the Vodafone case – saw the Daily Mail report: “Vodafone closes Oxford Street store at £6bn tax protest”.
A few months later and the focus moved to Sir Philip Green’s business empire. “Crisis? What crisis?” reported the Mail, which said the TopShop boss was “enjoying” a Barbados holiday while thousands of campaigners laid siege to his UK stores.
Barclays Bank was the next target – in February 2011 the Daily Express reported on the “raid” by tax protesters, who shouted: “Dave and George do your sums.” Later that same month, the Guardian ran with the headline “UK Uncut: ‘People are starting to listen to us'”
To some extent, the shift is down to the recession, according to Dr Stuart Roper, a corporate reputation expert at Manchester Business School.
“We are in an age of deep public spending cuts and real austerity. And this [tax avoidance] is not a victimless crime, if you like. If this was six or seven years ago, pre-financial crisis, I don’t think it would have had the same impact it’s had now,” he says.
War on Want’s tax justice campaigner Murray Worthy says there has also been a change in public perception.
“As the public have got to understand better what corporate tax avoidance is, there is a clear sense of outrage that is going well beyond a small group of protesters – it’s something that the public feels is really not right with the current system,” he says.
Discussions of the ethics of tax avoidance are now everywhere. But a few years back, it was a hardcore gaggle of activists and campaign groups like UK Uncut that were staging sit-down protests in stores such as the Arcadia Group, Boots, Vodafone and Fortnum and Mason.
Journalists and newspapers are also doing their own investigations, argues Worthy, with the appearance of Google, Starbucks and Amazon before the Public Accounts Committee a result of stories by the Daily Telegraph, Reuters and the Guardian respectively.
In a report published on Monday, the committee’s chairwoman Margaret Hodge said the level of tax taken from some multinational firms was “outrageous” and that HM Revenue and Customs needed to be “more aggressive and assertive in confronting corporate tax avoidance”.
MPs also called for those who do not pay their “fair” share to be named by the government, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander ruled it out, saying it would breach taxpayer confidentiality.
But just how effective is tax shaming anyway?
The idea that Starbucks would voluntarily pay more tax than it legally needs to seems extraordinary on the surface, and an argument for the effectiveness of tax shaming.
“Up until yesterday, I wouldn’t have thought these stories had much effect. I thought companies would carry on doing what they were doing, but look over their shoulder, in terms of their reputation,” says Michael Devereux, a tax expert at Said Business School, University of Oxford.
Starbucks appears to be saying they don’t think they owe any more money, but will pay anyway. If that’s true, it’s having a reputational effect – but it’s a bit odd in terms of the tax system, we wouldn’t want the tax system to be voluntary,” he says.
Branding experts agree the reputational side of things is key, as it is hard to measure the direct impact of tax shaming on sales and profit.
Dr Sue Bridgewater, a marketing expert at Warwick Business School, says if a company with a strong brand damages that, it also damages its financial “value”.
“Customers have very long memories and their emotional tie to a brand is a very important part of the loyalty,” she says.
But Roper says even reputational damage is difficult to ascertain and can quickly dissipate.
Another impact of tax shaming is that individuals can boycott brands, but Roper says the number of people who take direct action is “relatively low”.
What is more dangerous for companies is social media, he says – citing #boycottstarbucks, which was formed in the wake of the Starbucks story – because “a small number of people [can] activate and ferment dissent among another group”.
But is tax shaming justifiable?
Amazon, Starbucks and Google are by no means unique in minimising their UK tax liability. And individuals often try to lower their own tax bill by exploiting rules in inheritance tax, or gifting to charity.
Bridgewater says large multinational corporations have been using various methods of being “tax efficient” for decades, and it is “probably sound business practice”.
“The issue arises when we feel that a company has crossed a line and what it does to be tax efficient is morally, if not legally, inappropriate,” she says.
For a lot of companies, it is about fairness, according to Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors.
“It is very frustrating for many companies who pay large tax bills that some multinationals are able to avoid doing so.
“The solution must be simplifying the tax system, not simply hectoring from Westminster. If these firms are immoral to take advantage of tax loopholes, then politicians are surely immoral for creating the loopholes in the first place. Taxes should be simpler to cut down on avoidance and relieve the burden our complex tax code puts on companies who do try to do the right thing,” he says.
The director-general of the CBI, John Cridland, agrees the crux of the debate comes down to fairness.
“A company may be making good revenues but pay lower amounts of tax for completely legitimate business reasons. But if it’s doing this by using so-called ‘black-box’ arrangements, where transactions are designed for no commercial purpose at all, other than to avoid tax, then the CBI does not condone it, even if it is legal,” he says.
He says if the government wants a different result from the tax system, it must change the rules.
The pressure to do so has rarely been greater.
Τα δέκα χρόνια παρουσίας της στην Ελλάδα γιορτάζει η Starbucks και με την ευκαιρία της επαναλειτουργίας του καταστήματός της στην οδό Κοραή 4, στις 17 Απριλίου, κερνάει όλους ένα “απολαυστικό tall Cappuccino ή Freddo”, όπως αναφέρει στις διαφημίσεις που κατέκλυσαν τον κυριακάτικο Τύπο.
Σπεύσατε στο κατάστημα της Κοραή 4 λοιπόν, για να εκμεταλλευθείτε την προσφορά! Αφού επί δέκα χρόνια η εταιρία δεν έχει πληρώσει ούτε ένα ευρώ φόρο, τουλάχιστον ας μας προσφέρει έναν καφέ!
Δέκα χρόνια λειτουργίας στην Ελλάδα συμπληρώνει η Starbucks! (*). 244 εκατομμύρια ευρώ τζίρο για την περίοδο 2003-2011 (δεν έχει δημοσιευθεί ακόμη ο ισολογισμός για το 2012), 174,2 εκατομμύρια μικτά κέρδη, αλλά ούτε ένα ευρώ φόρο εισοδήματος!
Ναι, σωστά το διαβάζετε! Από την πρώτη χρονιά της λειτουργίας της, η εταιρία εμφανίζει ζημιές. Πόσες είναι η ζημιές στα χρόνια που λειτουργεί; Συνολικά έφθασαν στα 53,1 εκατομμύρια (για την περίοδο 2003-2011).
(Δείτε πίνακα με τα βασικά οικονομικά μεγέθη της περιόδου)
Μα, καλά, αφού η δουλειά αυτή είναι …ζημιογόνα, αφού επί 10 χρόνια τώρα δεν κατόρθωσαν να βγάλουν ούτε ένα ευρώ κέρδος, γιατί κάθονται στην Ελλάδα και λειτουργούν 36 καταστήματα;
Απάντηση στο ερώτημα αυτό θα μπορούσε να δώσει μόνο το Υπουργείο Οικονομικών, του οποίου οι υπηρεσίες, το 2011, έλεγξαν -επί τέλους- τις διαχειριστικές χρήσεις έως και το 2008. Αλλά κατά τα φαινόμενα, τα βρήκαν όλα “εντάξει”, αφού -όπως προκύπτει από τις οικονομικές καταστάσεις της εταιρίας για το έτος 2011, δεν επιβλήθηκε κάποιος αναδρομικός φόρος.
Αν δε μπορέσει να απαντήσει το Υπουργείο Οικονομικών, ή έως ότου απαντήσει αυτό (**), τότε μπορούμε απλά να κάνουμε υποθέσεις, στις οποίες οδηγούμαστε από την ανάγνωση άρθρων για τη …θεάρεστη δράση της εταιρίας Starbucks στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία (δείτε σχετικό άρθρο). (Διαβάστε επίσης: Πώς φοροδιαφεύγουν Starbucks, Amazon, Google και άλλες πολυεθνικές, Νόμιμη φοροδιαφυγή πολυεθνικών και το αφιέρωμα του ειδησεογραφικού πρακτορείου Reuters “Special Report: How Starbucks avoids UK taxes).
Δηλαδή, μας λένε τα άρθρα ότι, από το 1998 που ξεκίνησε τη λειτουργία της στη Βρετανία, η εταιρία Starbucks, έχει πραγματοποιήσει πωλήσεις άνω των 3 δισεκατομμυρίων λιρών και πλήρωσε φόρους μόλις 8,6 εκατομμύρια και αυτά πιθανότατα κατά λάθος, επειδή ένας ελεγκτής δε δέχθηκε την αφαίρεση κάποιων ποσών που παρουσιάζονταν ως δαπάνες.
Και πού πάνε τα κέρδη; Μέσα από ένα σύνθετο μηχανισμό μεταβιβάσεων από τοπικό επίπεδο στην κεντρική διοίκηση, αλλά και μέσα από χρεώσεις για τέλη ευρεσιτεχνίας στην αμερικανική μητρική εταιρία και αγορές κόκκων καφέ από τη θυγατρική της στην Ολλανδία, ένα μεγάλο μέρος των κερδών της οδηγούνται στην Ολλανδία, όπου η φορολογία επί των επιχειρήσεων είναι σημαντικά χαμηλότερη, ενώ ένα άλλο τμήμα των κερδών χάνεται σε χρεώσεις από θυγατρική της στην Ελβετία.
Βέβαια, θα υποστηρίξει κάποιος ότι, στην Ελλάδα, τα Starbucks λειτουργούνται από την “Μαρινόπουλος ΚΑΦΕ ΑΕΕ”, στην οποία η αμερικανική Starbucks, έως το τέλος του 2012 συμμετείχε με 18% (ανεπιβεβαίωτη πληροφορία), ενώ το υπόλοιπο μετοχικό κεφάλαιο ανήκε στην Marinopoulos Holdings (με έδρα το Λουξεμβούργο) και στη Marinopoulos Coffee Participations με έδρα την Κύπρο (στα τέλη του 2012, η Starbucks πώλησε το ποσοστό της στη Marinopouls Holdins του Λουξεμβούργου). Και συνεπώς, δε μπορεί να εφαρμόζει εδώ τις πρακτικές που εφάρμοζε στη Μεγ. Βρετανία και ενδεχόμενα και σε άλλες χώρες.
Αυτό όμως θα πρέπει να το απαντήσει το Υπουργείο Οικονομικών… Το οποίο και ερωτούμε εάν μπήκε ποτέ στον κόπο να προβληματισθεί πώς μία εταιρία (παγκοσμίου μεγέθους) έρχεται στην Ελλάδα να πουλήσει καφέ και τελικά στα δέκα χρόνια που λειτουργεί δε μπόρεσε να βγάλει ούτε ένα ευρώ κέρδος; Προβληματίστηκε άραγε ποτέ; Ή, έστω και μετά το σκάνδαλο που ξέσπασε στη Βρετανία, έκανε κάποιον έκτακτο έλεγχο; Αναρωτήθηκε ποιός ήταν ο ρόλος της εταιρίας Starbucks – Marinopoulos SEE BV με έδρα την Ολλανδία;
Τα ΜΜΕ βοούν από τις πρακτικές που χρησιμοποιούν διάφορες πολυεθνικές για να μην πληρώνουν κέρδη: τριγωνικές συναλλαγές, υπερτιμολογήσεις, αυξημένα roylties και ότι άλλο μπορεί να φανταστεί ο ανθρώπινος νους. Γίνεται κάποιος έλεγχος στις εδώ θυγατρικές ή συνεργαζόμενες εταιρίες των πολυεθνικών;
Αλήθεια, όταν στο Υπουργείο Οικονομικών βλέπουν μία εταιρία να διάγει τον 5ο ή τον 6ο, ή τον …10ο χρόνο λειτουργίας της, χωρίς να έχει βγάλει ποτέ ένα ευρώ κέρδος, προβληματίζονται; Στις περιπτώσεις αυτές δεν ανήκει μόνο η ελληνική Starbucks (Μαρινόπουλος Καφέ ΑΕΕ). Θα μπορούσαμε να κατονομάσουμε δεκάδες ακόμη εταιρίες που λειτουργούν χωρίς να μπορούν να εμφανίσουν ούτε ένα ευρώ κέρδος…
Γνωρίζει το Υπουργείο Οικονομικών ότι, στη Γαλλία, όταν μία εταιρία (ιδίως νέα) εμφανίσει ζημιά για 3 συνεχή χρόνια, τότε αυτόματα ελέγχεται εξονυχιστικά;
Δεν υποστηρίζουμε ότι έγινε κάτι “στραβό” με τη λειτουργία των Starbucks στην Ελλάδα. Όμως, μπορούμε να πάρουμε τέτοιες περιπτώσεις ως παραδείγματα, για να προβληματιζόμαστε; Και κυρίως, για να προβληματίζεται το Υπουργείο Οικονομικών; Εκτός εάν τελικά, εξαντλούν την ενεργητικότητά τους στο πώς θα φορολογήσουν και πώς θα γονατίσουν ακόμη περισσότερο τους Έλληνες πολίτες…
(*) Η Μαρινόπουλος Καφέ ΑΕΕ, η εταιρία που λειτουργεί στην Ελλάδα τα Καταστήματα Starbucks ιδρύθηκε στις 2/4/2002. Όμως, λειτούργησε τα καταστήματά της, από το 2003.
(**) Εντός της εβδομάδας, ο Σύλλογος θα υποβάλλει σχετικό ερώτημα προς τον Υπουργό των Οικονομικών, μέσω αναφοράς του προς τον Πρόεδρο της Βουλής.