What can we do about our unfair tax system?
From the Guardian, Tue 9 Dec 14: New leaked documents reveal more firms [including Skype, Disney & Koch brothers’ company Investa] using Luxembourg for favourable tax arrangements, putting pressure on EC president, Jean-Claude Juncker
It seems crazy that a teacher in my local primary school will have paid more in income tax last month than global giant Skype’s paid in corporation tax over the last five years.
Crazy, but true. And Skype’s done nothing illegal; its executives are playing within the rules of the global tax game and they have one mission only: to maximise profits for their corporate masters. Yes, they still maintain the incredibly useful platform that connects us with people across the globe. It’s how they (deservedly) create value in the first place. But this behaviour shows that they have changed their focus, and one of the reasons might be that Microsoft is keen on making back the $8.5billion it spend on buying the internet communications upstart in 2011.
No amount of complaining about fairness and appeals to the spirit of the law will change that. We can protest, of course. Protests are useful and necessary because they help raise awareness; but if we really want to hasten change, then we can and should take real action:
Stop spending your money with these companies who behave in this way. In some cases you can do it instantly – ditching Starbucks for your local, independent coffee shop for example.
In others, it’s more of a long-term proposition. Skype’s competitors (including Google) don’t necessarily have a good track record as far as taxes are concerned either. But that’s no excuse. Keep looking, and if you feel strong enough about it, then be an entrepreneur: launch your own ethical, peer-to-peer Skype replacement service built on open source technology. Start by getting your friends and family to use it with you and who knows, it might just take off. Fairphone is a great example of an innovation that’s just getting traction in an industry previously devoid of genuinely ethical options (by the way, you should check out this Guardian interactive to learn more about just how (un)sustainable our beloved smartphones are).
Actually, do more than vote. The big problem is that tax rules have been rigged by successive generations of politicians who are are way too susceptible to corporate influence. If we want proper non-establishment candidates who will speak up for change, we need them to be financially independent of corporate interests. This is starting to happen, with some candidates experimenting with crowd-funding. So do your research to find, fund and vote for financially independent representatives who show a commitment to fight for greater fairness.
Just two ideas. I’m sure there are many more. All the more reason to get up and take action rather than sit and complain.