Category Archives: Taxes

Did Ireland’s 12.5 Percent Corporate Tax Rate Create the Celtic Tiger?

Offshore banking and tax haven expert Nicholas Shaxson has launched a new blog, Fools’ Gold, to look at issues of ‘competitiveness’ and so-called ‘competition’ between nations. We’ve often taken issue with that policy goal, since it gives precedence to crushing labor as a way of lowering product prices to stoke exports. This approach is dubious for anything other than small economies, since all countries cannot be net exporters. Undue focus on exports as a driver of growth results in increasing international friction, such as the currency wars that are underway now. Moreover, as we have discussed separately, trade liberalization has gone hand in hand with liberalization of capital flows, in no small measure due to US efforts to make the world safe for what were then US investment banks. Yet Carmen Reinhardt and Ken Rogoff pointed out in their study of financial crises, higher levels of international capital flows are associated with more frequent and severe financial crises.

In addition, lowering wage rates reduces domestic demand. In countries like the US, where the domestic economy is much larger than the export sector, lowering internal demand to stoke exports is misguided.

Here we look at a first case study, the real reasons behind the growth and meltdown of the famed Celtic tiger, Ireland.

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Bill Black: HSBC CEO – My Pay Was so Outrageous I Had to Use Tax Havens to Hide it from My Peers

This tidbit from HSBC reveals a new low in the standards of banking, which given how low those already are, amounts to an accomplishment of sorts. Perhaps we should create a Stuart Gulliver Award for other instances of creative extreme seaminess. Nominees?

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Where are the “Progressive” Democrats on Loretta Lynch’s HSBC Money Laundering Wrist Slap?

Some Republican Senators are having a field day, and rightly so, over the fact that Obama’s attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, looks to have allowed bank giant HSBC, and more important, its executives and officers, off vastly too easy in a massive money-laundering and tax evasion scheme. And where are the inquisitive Democratic senators to be found?

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Robert Parenteau: Get a TAN, Yanis: A Timely Alternative Financing Instrument for Greece

TAN, or tax anticipation notes, would way be a for Greece to give itself more fiscal spending wriggle room without violating Eurozone rules. That will likely be necessary if Monday’s meeting in Brussels results in no extension of the current Eurozone bailout.

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What Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers Don’t Tell You About Income Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening —picture than we’ve had before.  Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

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Tax Inversion Remains (Huge)

Yves here. When normally MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) inducing tax schemes become a topic of national debate, it’s because despite their complexity, they’ve become too big and ugly to ignore.

Mind you, multinationals already have tons of ways to escape from the tax man, starting with clever transfer pricing so as to claim pretty much all their profits occurred in super low tax domiciles. But the trick that has caused consternation is tax inversions. In crude terms is using mergers as a way to move the headquarters of a company from a higher tax to a lower tax jurisdiction. The acquired company in the lower-tax location becomes the new parent company.

The Treasury Department was so concerned about potential revenue loss that it took measures to reduce tax inversions. This article argues, in effect, that while Treasury may have made it more difficult, that the incentive to enter into inversion remains. The analysis is clever and compelling. It also happens to debunk the argument made by defenders of Antonio Weiss, the Lazard banker nominated to a Treasury post who is fiercely opposed by Elizabeth Warren. Weiss was an important advisor on the Burger King-Hortons merger, the deal that (according to the Wall Street Journal) that led Treasury to put rules in place to combat tax inversions. The defenders argued that the tax rates between US and Canada weren’t all that different, so that the tax considerations weren’t important to the deal. This article mentions the Burger King deal and the difference between US and Canadian inbound divident repatriation tax rates at 10%, more than enough to be motivating.

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Private Equity “Money for Nothing” Tax Game as An Example of Elite Lawlessness

Most members of the great unwashed public, when they hear about unfair results of the tax code, like Warren Buffet’s secretary facing a higher tax rate than he does, or private equity and hedge fund barons paying capital gains tax rates on labor income, assume that those outcomes are the result of a combination of the rich getting the tax code changed over time or succeeding in preserving the exploitation of loopholes that should have been closed ages ago.

But there is another category of tax games that are not discussed much in polite company, that of outright abuses. What is disturbing about that behavior is that it has not only become increasingly common, but members of the bar, including those at white shoe firms, are enablers. “Money for nothing” private equity monitoring agreements are a blindingly obvious example.

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High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%

Optimal tax rates for the rich are a perennial source of controversy. This column argues that high marginal tax rates on the top 1% of earners can make society as a whole better off. Not knowing whether they would ever make it into the top 1%, but understanding it is very unlikely, households especially at younger ages would happily accept a life that is somewhat better most of the time and significantly worse in the rare event they rise to the top 1%.

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Bill Black: The “Magical Fairyland” of Corporate Tax Scams

Yves here. Brace yourself for the perverse spectacle of Republicans and their US corporate masters whinging about tax rates when effective corporate tax rates are super low by historical standards, in large measure due to clever tax structuring and the use of tax havens.

The European Union has made a show of cracking down on Ireland as a tax scam, um, tax haven for its low corporate tax rate, while leaving the even more flagrant destination of Luxembourg untouched. A newly-relesed report shed some light on the scale of the Luxembourg tax scam, which is now leading to some official kabuki as to what to do about it. What goes unsaid is the degree to which the US and UK are top players in tax avoidance, the US through destinations here (including Delaware and Wyoming limited liability corporations) and the Caymans, the haven preferred by US banks. In the UK, the City has its own network of preferred tax haven, including the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Bermuda.

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Are Immigrants Bad for Government Budgets?

Yves here. One of the major charges leveled at immigrants in the US is that they use public services (the stereotype is that they show up in emergency rooms, which are not a taxpayer expense,* as well as send children to school) and don’t provide anywhere near the contribution to the economy in terms of tax contributions relative to what they extract.

Notice that that charge is implicitly made of illegal immigrants, who presumably don’t pay income taxes (although I personally know one who does, by virtue of being in an immigration Schrodinger’s cat uncertainty state and having a Social Security card and meticulously paying taxes for 15 years while no longer having a visa and not having become a citizen. Will not bore you whit his shaggy dog story). But their incomes are often so low that it’s not clear they’d pay much even if their taxes were reported, save regressive FICA taxes. Yet they do pay other taxes: sales taxes, gasoline taxes, and property taxes embedded in their rents.

There is a separate public policy argument about immigration and foreign guest workers on H1-B visas, which is that at least the way it is conducted in America, that in combination with an anti-labor-bargaining policies, cheap immigrant labor gives employers even more leverage against workers. This post focuses narrowly on the “are they worse than natives in terms of impact on the public purse?” The study focuses on the UK. One of the striking revelations is how little decent data there is on this topic, particularly in a country that has no where near the number of unofficial immigrants as the US.

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Class Traitors: How Ideological Brainwashing Gets Rich and Ordinary Americans to Undermine Their Economic Interest

Linda Beale, of ataxingmatter, has written forcefully and persuasively about some of the propagandizing-accepted-as-gospel that the well-heeled use to advocate policies that advance their economic interests. For instance, as most Naked Capitalism readers appreciate, but a remarkably large swathe of the US population does not, tax cuts for big corporations are simply a transfer to the rich. From a post last year:

I’ve argued frequently in the past that there is no there there–i.e., that lowering corporate tax rates will do nothing to create jobs. Instead, I’ve said, it will simply deliver an even higher profit margin to be skimmed off by the highest paid executives and, possibly, shareholders. The higher profit margins are unlikely even to be used to increase workers’ shares of the corporate revenues through higher wages, a place where they could most help the economy other than new jobs created. Thus, the drive for “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform (cut corporate taxes, cut expenditures elsewhere to make up for the decreased corporate tax revenues) is just another example of corporatism as an engine of the modern form of US class warfare

Beale takes up a different theme today: how the rich and poor act against their economic interest. For many in middle and lower income strata in red states, hostility to the government is an article of faith even though those states (and many of those same govement-hating citizens) are significant beneficiaries of Federal programs.

But less well recognized are the ways that the wealthy are undermining themselves. They’ve taken the “increase our distance from everyone else” experiment well beyond its point of maximum advantage, not just to the society around them but also in terms of the costs to the class warriors.

As we’ve pointed out, highly unequal societies have lower lifespans, even among the rich; the shallower social networks of stratified societies and the high cost of losing one’s perch, in terms of loss of friends and status, creates an ongoing level of stress that has a longevity cost. Beale points out something we’ve mentioned occasionally in the past, that creating an underclass with inadequate access to medical services is a great breeding ground for public health problems. The fact that many low income Americans can’t afford to take sick days and health plans generally have high deductibles, which discourage individuals from getting treated until they are sure they are really sick, isn’t a great program design if you want to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

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