Friday, October 14, 2011
What is a Dutch sandwich with a side of double Irish?
And which major corporation might be making best use of it?
Got your iPhone out? Ready, steady, go.
It's a trick question. The answer is Google.
The Internal Revenue Service is taking a long, hard look at Google's remarkable ability to dodge its "fair share" of corporate taxes by availing itself of the the double Irish.
At question is the legality of a move that was made legal in 2003. As far as the U.S. government is concerned, that deal applied to Google's intellectual property at the time. Any and all things added since then can't be shifted around in a tax dodging shell game. Google googled the issue and the computer says no.
Google Ireland pays licensing fees to Google Ireland Holdings, a subsidiary that is licensed by Google. GIH says its management is in Bermuda, which doesn't tax corporations. Google Ireland Holdings is paid from Google Ireland via a Dutch holding company, thus avoiding the Irish withholding tax. Once Google Ireland deducts its administrative expenses, there's nothing left to be taxed by the Irish Exchequer. Google avoids paying U.S. taxes because the profits are made in Ireland.
Google has pocketed as much as one billion dollars...per year...by avoiding the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35%. They'd like to keep things as they are, naturally, and include their recent acquisition of YouTube under the tax dodging umbrella.
You'll hear politicians speak of a tax holiday, in which corporations like Google can repatriate all those profits they've shuffled around the globe without having to pay that 35%. Something is better than nothing, goes the logic.
Not that Google is the only firm to take advantage of a convoluted tax code that is riddled with loopholes. All the large multinationals are just trying to save a buck and improve their bottom lines. It's a question of what is cheaper, paying or avoiding.
Lower the tax rate to be in line with other countries, and when it's not cost-effective to move money around, the Dutch sandwich will be left on the plate.
Still think it's the big bankers and millionaires and billionaires not paying their "fair share"? The computer says no.