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More Tax Scams

In a recent podcast I heard the news (well it shouldn’t really be news because it’s what I’ve come to expect from big corporations) that Apple in Australia has been up to its old tricks again and has hidden profits in overseas (Irish in this case) subsidiaries to avoid paying tax.

Of course all large corporations do this to some extent (Apple and Google do something very similar here in New Zealand) so I aren’t really picking on Apple except to say that, while it is a company I admire for its products, I definitely don’t approve of its business practices which are often (but not always) fairly heinous!

The strategies these companies use aren’t illegal, of course, but a more interesting question is: are they moral, or even reasonable? Another interesting question might be: is tax evasion something that everyone does and therefore something that evens out for everybody in the end?

So let’s start by asking if this behaviour is reasonable. If you ascribe to the classic neo-liberal “greed is good” philosophy (wow, I almost typed “greed is god” there by mistake, and maybe given the almost religious fervour its proponents have for it that might have been more accurate!) then of course it is. In fact, under that philosophy, reducing tax and maximising profits by any means (in extreme cases even illegal means) is actively encouraged.

Luckily few people continue to hold these views and I get the impression that pure libertarianism and extreme neo-liberalism is declining around the world.

So how reasonable this tax avoidance is would depend partly on opinion, but I think it would be quite difficult to defend a system where huge corporations which make massive profits pay almost no tax where small companies and individuals effectively subsidise them by paying at the prescribed rate.

So the next question is whether everyone can avoid paying tax or would avoid it if they could.

Some people do minimise their tax to a small extent but many have no options at all. So the first part of the question is clear: few people or companies can avoid paying tax, but would they if they had the chance?

I think many would make some effort but few would have the resources to set up the elaborate schemes the big corporations can. And I think a lot would pay tax at a rate they considered fair without putting too much effort into avoiding it.

You might say these people are “suckers” or just too lazy to do what they should, but I don’t think so. I think they are being reasonable and I’m afraid that Apple (whatever I think of its products) is immoral and (yes, if you like) evil for taking tax avoidance to such extremes.

So I’ve got to say it: “you suck Apple”. Right, now that I’ve heard the podcast on my Apple iPhone and written this on my Apple MacBook Pro I will post it to my Apple server and test it on my Apple iPad! Yes, I’ve contributed a lot to Apple’s vast coffers and I really would like to see a little bit more of that coming back to our local communities. Tim Cook, are you listening?

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