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The Great Tax Avoiders Tuesday August 6, 2013

The Great Tax Avoiders

America has a long, proud history of technological innovation. From the cotton gin to the digital computer to the iPod to tablets and smartphones, and more, American technology companies are truly great innovators. But perhaps their greatest achievements are innovating ways to NOT pay taxes on most of the money they make.

Consider Apple Inc. Recent US Senate hearings laid out a few incredible facts about Apple. There's the fact that they paid almost NO US taxes on at least 74 billion dollars in earnings over the past 4 years. Taking advantage of current US tax laws, they employed offshore corporations and other legal machinations to avoid taxes. Senator John McCain - a Republican, no less - said Apple was the "most egregious offender" of US corporations avoiding paying tax.

But Apple is not alone in its innovation on tax avoidance.

The Senate hearings also criticized Hewlett-Packard Co for setting up layers of short-term loans on their books, in order to bring foreign cash into the US without having to pay taxes on it.

Then there's the outfit everyone loves to hate, Microsoft. The Senate chastised them for moving income-generating intellectual property to foreign subsidiaries in Singapore, Ireland, and Puerto Rico in order to avoid US taxes. Very innovative.

You're undoubtedly aware that Greece and several other European countries are in dire financial straits because of the huge government spending deficits, and the equally large number of citizens who are skilled at avoiding taxes. Do we really think the US can be far behind if something isn't done to tighten tax laws and loopholes?

How long can the US continue to send foreign aid to the rest of the world's poor nations, fund military actions and bases, and provide welfare and health care to many of its own citizens, if they can't generate enough tax revenue? There needs to be either a national sales tax - like nearly all western nations have - or a fair and realistic tax code, with fewer exemptions and tricks for billionaire corporations and individuals.

Until then, the phrase "the Land of the Free" has a whole different meaning, when you're talking to a corporate tax specialist.