The Emerald Isle that lures the likes of Google and Facebook with its low rate of corporation tax is in fact a stony pile of rocks covered in moss luring them to the wilderness of becoming tax pariahs.
The UK is undeniably the reason that those two internet giants came to Europe. The internet is almost exclusively in English as far as I can tell, so it is only natural that they would wish to exploit the country that invented the language and gave birth to the worldwide wide web.
So you would think that they would both move their headquarters to the UK and try to pay as much tax in the UK as corporately possible. As a sign of respect, more than anything.
But no. The fact that the UK wants to become a tax haven isn’t enough for them. They stop off in Ireland, an actual tax haven.
Not even a good tax haven. It’s so horrible that Bono and The Edge felt the need to trade down even further by going to Holland.
Until recently Ireland was considered to be a third world country by many standards so it’s exactly the sort of country that we should be ensuring doesn’t attract investment from multinational corporations.
But I digress.
The point here is that if Facebook or Google wanted to run their operations entirely out of Ireland, they could. With no presence in the UK they could easily pay no corporation tax in the UK. Technically they would be trading with the UK, not in the UK, so they wouldn’t be within the scope of UK taxes.
Basically it would be like Usain Bolt deciding to let his image be used for advertising in the UK but never actually racing here because it would cost him more in tax. Which is universally condemned.
So that’d be wrong, but what they then do is even wronger.
They decide that they want to employ the odd person in the UK and a company might be in order.
This if where the difference in law between companies and sprinters differs.
Usain Bolt would be liable to tax on a proportion of his worldwide income if he were to even show up in the UK (he doesn’t, to universal condemnation), but having a company in the UK doesn’t entitle us to a share of Facebook and Google’s worldwide income. Oh no.
They pretend that the UK companies are like some sort of collection agent that simply does a bit of collection of money and administration. Well, that is just sophistry.
We know that Google employs people involved in research and development that, whilst is probably loss making right now, will yield profits some day in the future through patent rights and licenses and other intellectual property rights.
In the meantime we have to suffer Google investing in science and employing people for no financial gain of our own. The same is probably true of Facebook.
Nowadays, I am increasingly finding it increasingly difficult to research using the worldwide wide web nowadays as the number of ethical resources is diminishing nowadays.
Even Wikipedia are some sort of ‘non profit organisation’ which means they are probably avoiding taxes by not using their site for advertising.
Well, lots of people use Wikipedia in the UK, so I think we should be entitled to some sort of financial reward for letting that happen.
In short I say this to Facebook, Google and Wikipedia: as Bob Geldof once said, “give me your fudging money”.