Protesters target Apple as a tax cheat

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By Oona Robertson

Tomorrow (Sat/4), the economic justice organization US Uncut is protesting Apple Computers for trying to avoid paying $4 billion in federal taxes and for joining a corporate tax cheat lobbying group. Ironically, it is Apple's good corporate reputation that has made it a target, as protesters hope the attention might shame the company into doing the right thing.

Apple has kept billions of dollars in profits in offshore tax havens and low-tax countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands. Through an organization called WIN America that Apple belongs to along with Google, Microsoft, and other large corporations, it is lobbying Congress for a tax holiday to bring $1.2 trillion in profits back to the U.S. to supposedly invest in the economy. Apple’s share of this tax break, $4 billion, would equal salaries for 90,000 teachers.

US Uncut is aware that the technology giant is an unlikely target for protest, due to its popularity and positive public image. Protesters are hoping that because Apple seems to care about its image in the eyes of consumers, it is more likely to respond to a protest.

“Most of the other companies aren’t really gonna give a damn if we go after them. They’re not concerned for their reputation. [With Apple] there’s a little more leverage,” US Uncut spokesperson Joanne Gifford told us. Apple did not return requests for comment.

Protesters hope to creatively drive their message home using flash mobs to get people's attention. They are demanding Apple, “Leave the Tax Cheat Lobbying Group and Stop Lobbing Congress for More Tax Loopholes,” according to its website.

This Saturday's action coincides with similar protests in 15 other U.S. cities, all organized by US Uncut as part of what it calls a national day of action. In San Francisco, protesters are meeting at Union Square to “discuss action ideas,” before heading over to the Apple flagship store on Market Street. Chanting, handing out leaflets and holding signs will be recommended, boasting slogans such as “Love the iPhone, hate the tax cheat,” and, “It only takes one bad apple.”

US Uncut’s website lists creative action ideas for protesters to employ, such as impersonating Apple employees by wearing turquoise blue shirts and nametags, or approaching the Genius Bar to ask questions such as, “Why can’t I sync my iPhone with my values?”

Teachers are being told to bring their pink slips and ask the “geniuses” how to save their jobs. The protesters' last major flash mob, a music and dance number targeting Bank of America, made headlines and the hope is to replicate that level of publicity this Saturday.

Comments

Taking advantage of legal tax strategies does not make Apple, or any of the other companies, "Tax Cheats". You can argue about whether the tax laws are appropriate or not, but throwing around misleading and intentionally inaccurate labels is not the way to argue your case.

It would be similar to calling Teachers "Tax Cheats" for taking advantage of pre-tax 403(b) deferrals and consequently lowering their tax burden.

Posted by Guest666 on Jun. 03, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

Tax evasion is a technical term for breaking tax laws, but cheating is a term that generally means getting ahead in a sneaky or underhanded way. And when American corporations use elaborate fiscal ruses to avoid paying taxes they should owe in this country, even if that's legal, I don't see a problem with calling that cheating. They're cheating us out of money we should have for education, infrastructure, and other needs, and they're cheating in their competition with small companies that don't employ teams of tax lawyers and lobbyists to avoid paying the taxes that large corporations should to the country that fostered their financial growth. It's shameful (the fact that they do it and the fact that it's so widely accepted by people like you) and it's good to see this group calling them on it.

Posted by steven on Jun. 03, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

Steven,

I don't agree with many of the tax breaks/loopholes for corporations either. However, you are arguing public policy, and generally, when one believes the law does not reflect public policy, then they lobby to change the law.

What Apple is doing is legal. No matter how good of a corporate citizen Apple (or any other corporation for that matter) wants to be, it is not going to pay more taxes than it legally owes. A corporation has a legal fiduciary duty to its shareholders to protect and increase the value of its stock, and the best way to do that is to maximize profits.

Certainly, the group has a First Amendment right to "call out" anyone it feels like "calling out." But, that doesn't mean there is much sense to what they are doing, unless they are simply pointing out that they believe current tax law promotes poor public policy. And, I would think if the real issue is that existing tax law promotes inequities, then the individuals who should be "called out" are the elected individuals in Congress who have the power to amend existing tax laws and eliminate deductions, credits, and other tax loopholes that reduce that amount of tax owed.

There is no one I have ever heard of, whether that person is an individual or a company, who has voluntary attempted to pay more taxes than they legally owe. To the contrary, most individuals and companies take advantage of every available method for reducing their tax burden, including amending prior year returns that missed taking advantage of every credit, deduction, and legal method to reduce the tax due.

I have no problem with increasing taxes on big corporations or the wealthy, but I have no problem with individuals legally paying the least amount of tax they are required to pay. By your very definition of cheating as "getting ahead in a sneaky or underhanded way," Apple has not committed cheating. Reporting your tax position on a return filed with the government is not sneaky, and using well-known and legal methods for reducing your tax burden is not underhanded.

What you really mean to say is that current tax law is unfair and should be changed. Well, yes, I mostly agree with you. So, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Posted by Chris on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 4:13 am

wish i had the money to lobby gov for tax breaks...wish i had a overseas account to hide my money so the gov couldnt track it...wish i had a job!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2011 @ 4:17 am

I couldn't have said it better.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2011 @ 5:59 am

These wealthy corporations were always complaining they paid too much taxes so they pay the government officials off to get this tax loophole. They ought to all be prosecuted. This is not the policy that represents the american citizens.

America is suppose to be for the people by the people.

If these corporations are not held accountable to pay taxes it is going to be the death of the America we enjoy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 03, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

all i can say is if the government was a little responsible with the way they spend our tax dollars maybe more people wouldn't try to hide there money overseas or in off shore account .

Posted by Guest on Feb. 29, 2012 @ 8:20 am

If we only had the money these large corporations have, we could change the tax code to our favor as well. We could all stop paying taxes (wouldn't that be great). Guest666 would no longer have nice roads to drive on, his luxury car on,no longer have an airport to land his jet in, no longer would there be a coast guard to save him if his yacht was sinking(this might benefit society). when a angry mob decides to come to his house there would be no police protection.
Sooner or later we are all going to stop paying taxes to take care of people like you.
P.S I am assuming you are probably someone who is part of one of these corporations. SHAME ON YOU

Posted by Guest on Nov. 03, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

it would be considered a cheat if it moved its HQ for the sole purpose of avoiding tax.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

those laws and not companies that are fully compliant with the law.

Posted by Walter on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 1:45 am

Of course when people protest the governments that set up the tax system to benefit corporations, the coporate media and all their little minions come out of the woodwork to demonize those protests.

That said, corporations are legitimate targets. Because after all, where does all this pro-corporate bias come from? It's not like the people rose up one day and demanded tax breaks for the rich.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 8:57 am

Who's demonizing the protests? No one here has said the protesters are "wrong" or attempted to "demonize" them. Disagreeing with the reasons why one is protesting does not equate to "demonization."

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

It is the corporations making huge political donations that have perverted the democratic process and their lawyers lobbying said politicians they paid to get them to make tax laws that serve the uberwealthy.
The tax havens may be legal but they are immoral and if you think the super rich had nothing to do with the creation of these laws, then you either have your head in the sand or are an absolute moron, and if that is the case then I feel sorry for you.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 10:56 am

Unfortunately, sleight-of-hand accounting is a common practice among Fortune 500 companies. There are minions of accountants out there who are willing to violate ETHICAL (if not legal) codes for a big-buck salary.

General Electric is the most egregious violator. It paid $00 federal income tax in 2010.

Nice to see that non-tax payments by Fortune 500 companies are finally attracting public attention.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 3:01 am

Amazing... you actually recognize that corporations are tax cheats. But how could they do that unless the government let them do it? Not only does the government not go after tax cheats, but a lot of this is done "legally." The whole tax system is set up to favor corporations with high-priced lawyers and accountants. Because through the whole system of lobbying, campaign contributions, and the revolving door between politics and corporations, the government is at their service. Meanwhile, on other threads, you call this "democracy."

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 8:51 am

Greg,
I'm an independent thinker. I'm not a knee-jerk anything. Sometimes I veer left and sometimes I veer right.

Think about it, son.

You don't have to be an utterly predictable lefty ideologue all of the time.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 9:15 am

Either that, or you're just like Matlock, who disagrees for the sake of disagreeing. Your opinions aren't moderate. They're just absurdly contradictory and inconsistent. You do realize that if you juxtapose your posts on this thread with what you wrote about the Spanish protests, it makes absolutely zero sense, right?

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 10:21 am

Nuance, son.

It is entirely possible to embrace capitalism and also be opposed to corporate tax cheats.

But you are a True Believer (leftie ideologue), so you don't understand that.

You've got THE FAITH, just like a Jehovah's Witness. You know right from wrong.

So, I have to politely dismiss you and close my front door in your face.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

Anyone who reads what you've posted here, and on the thread about Spain, can see that it's totally contradictory. On the one hand, you decry the fact that many corporations pay no taxes, and the lack of public attention. On the other hand, when people protest to bring public attention to the fact that government serves the corporations (by among other things, setting up a tax system that allows them to legally evade taxes), you mock the protestors. And then you throw stupid soundbites at me like some corporate PR hack, when I make the simple observation that if "democracy" means serving the people, then any government that prioritizes corporate profit over public services, is not very "democratic."

Are you truly that dense?

Oh, and one more thing...I'm not your son, little man.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

I get it now, son.

"The corporateocracy" vs. "the masses of the people."

Us vs. Them.

Right vs. Wrong

(nuance need not apply)

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

"The corporatocracy" = BAD!BAD!!

"The masses of the people" = GOOD!GOOD!!

Good vs. Evil

(nuance need not apply here).

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 9:19 am

There is something called Fiduciary Trust!!! One uses all methods that are legal to manage money or property of the share holders to the highest standard of care.

Whoever is targeting Apple do not understand the meaning of Fiduciary Trust. If they don't like the tax loop holes created by Congress, they should focus on Congress to change the laws!!!

Posted by Viswakarma on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 11:53 am

They make your point so much more convincing.

But where did congress get the idea for writing tax law in such a way as to benefit corporations? I don't remember street protests demanding corporate tax breaks.

The corporations that lobbied for (and often wrote) those laws share the blame with their cronies in congress.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

About a month ago 60 minutes dedicated a segment to this subject. To sum up U. S. tax law at one time encouraged large U. S. corporations to create 'headquarters' in places like Switzerland, which have corporate tax rates less than half our own. Then, Congress amended tax law so that corporations now had to have significant employment at these overseas locations to include essential personnel.

So all U. S. tax law did was export jobs overseas, and high-paying jobs at that...jobs that would have generated tax revenue back here in the States.

When asked, the rep's at the major players interviewed said that if U. S. corporate rates were reduced, they would gladly move their overseas operations back to the U. S., because, if possible, they would rather those be American jobs.

American corporations don't just compete with other American corporations. If companies overseas have tax rates less than half our own, then it gives them a built-in advantage over American companies...unless they compensate by exploiting the loopholes that save them from paying a rate over twice that of their competition.

Companies have to be competitive to succeed. Align U. S. rates with those of peer nations and this 'problem' will vanish. Yet another example of the effect of punitive tax rates.

Posted by macspirit on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

These countries may have lower nominal tax rates, but the corporations actually pay them. Here, there are tons of loopholes so that corporations pay nothing. Then they have the audacity to whine about the high nominal tax rates and lobby to lower it even more! I wouldn't mind lowering the tax rate if it was just fairly enforced, but I don't think corporations would want that. They want to continue the charade of paying nothing and whining about how much they pay.

I do have an idea for how to make it easier for American companies to compete. American companies are burdened with providing health care benefits to their workers, and European companies are not. Single payer health care would lift a tremendous burden off the backs of the poor suffering American corporations. Of course their officers, who make millions of dollars, might have to pay a wee bit more income tax.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

The ruse that US tax rates are comparatively high is total bullshit. Real taxes are measured by (top-line) GDP over (bottom-line) tax revenues (see below).

Nobody in the 32.5% tax bracket is paying 32.5% of their income to the gov. We have loads of entitlements and tax deductions that keep rates relatively low compared with other OECD nations (see below). We have to learn to live within our means, and that will mean BOTH raising taxes and cutting spending...

From the Brookings Institute:

Tax as a percentage of GDP
Total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, year 2009

Percent
Denmark 48.2
Sweden** 47.2
Italy 43.5
Belgium 43.2
Finland 43.1
Austria 42.8
France 41.9
Norway 41.0
EU-15* 39.1
Netherlands* 39.1
Hungary 39.1
Slovenia 37.9
Luxembourg 37.5
Germany 37.0
Portugal* 35.2
OECD* 34.8
Czech Republic 34.8
United Kingdom 34.3
Poland* 34.3
Iceland 34.1
Israel 31.4
Canada 31.1
New Zeeland 31.0
Spain 30.7
Switzerland 30.3
Greece 29.4
Slovak Republic 29.3
Japan* 28.1
Ireland 27.8
Australia* 27.1
Korea 25.6
Turkey 24.6
United States 24.0
Chile 18.2
Mexico 17.1%

Only Chile and Mexico have lower tax rates than us.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

The topic here is corporate tax rates, and the US corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the West.

So it makes sense that there should be deductions and exemptions that can be taken against that.

GE didn't pay any tax last year because it had carried forward losses i.e. there was no profit to tax.

Posted by Walter on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 11:50 am

Walt,

The "effective" tax rate is the real measure of tax rates. When companies flagrantly complain that their tax rates are 35%, or upper-middle-class Americans complain that they are in the 27.5% tax bracket...well, nobody is actually paying those rates.

I worked as an accountant in Japan and in Spain, and I always paid much higher taxes than I ever paid here.

The US is almost the only country on earth where you file an individual tax return. In most countries, taxes are deducted directly from your wages. There are no deductions. There are no individual tax filings.

Given this, real taxes are measured by (top-line) GDP over (bottom-line) tax revenues. That's how you measure tax rates after all the deductions.

And, as the chart above, shows OUR TAX RATES ARE VERY LOW.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

Walter,

Also, GE isn't deferring anything. It is cheating. Forbes (a conservative publication) ran an article pinpointing all of its egregious practices. Google it for a good lesson in corporate cheating.

Over the last two years, GE Capital has displayed an uncanny ability to lose lots of money in the U.S. (posting a $6.5 billion loss in 2009), and make lots of money overseas (a $4.3 billion gain).

Posted by Barton on Jun. 07, 2011 @ 6:47 am

whatever

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2011 @ 4:22 am

So how do you cheat on taxes without really cheating? You form a UNION, yes WIN America is a corporate UNION, hire lobbyists who then actually re-write the tax laws so that whatever you want to do is no longer against the law. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is another "union" that actually invites state and national legislators to conferences to "inform" them on how to write legislation favorable to business, that is THEIR businesses. They actually just hand the legislators the bills and tell them how to get them passed.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 7:22 am