Six of the Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe have been accused of dodging $100 billion in taxes by a British tax watchdog.
CNBC reports that six major Silicon Valley tech firms have been accused of having a combined “tax gap” of $100 billion over the past ten years according to an analysis by a British tax organization. Fair Tax Mark, a British organization that certifies businesses for proper tax conduct, examined the global tax payments of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Microsoft from 2010 to 2019.
The research analyzed the company’s 10-K filings submitted to the U.S. government by the tech giants. Fair Tax Mark looked at tax provisions, which is the amount that companies set aside in their financial reports to pay taxes, and compared these with the amount of money that the companies actually paid to the government, called cash taxes. Researchers found that over the past ten years, the gap between the tax provision set out by the tech firms and the taxes they actually paid was approximately $100.2 billion.
The report also claimed that the profits were “shifted to tax havens, especially Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.” The researchers noted that most of the tax shortfall “almost certainly arose outside the United States,” with tax charges from countries outside the United States coming to 8.4 percent of the companies’ profits overseas.
Paul Monaghan, CEO of Fair Tax Mark, discussed the report with CNBC stating: “The amount of tax being paid by these businesses is $100 billion less than reported in their accounts.” The report noted that Amazon was the worst offender of the six tech firms. The report alleged that Amazon paid $3.4 billion in income taxes since 2010, noting that the cash tax paid by Amazon amounted to 12.7 percent of its profit for the decade despite the corporate tax rate being set at 35 percent for seven of the past ten years. President Donald Trump cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent in 2017.
The report stated: “The company is growing its market domination across the globe on the back of revenues that are largely untaxed and can unfairly undercut local businesses that take a more responsible approach.” A spokesperson for Amazon told CNBC in a statement:
Amazon represents about 1% of global retail, with larger competitors everywhere we operate, and had a 24% effective tax rate on profits from 2010-2018. Amazon is primarily a retailer where profit margins are low, so comparisons to technology companies with operating profit margins of closer to 50% is not rational. Governments write the tax laws and Amazon is doing the very thing they encourage companies to do — paying all taxes due while also investing many billions in creating jobs and infrastructure. Coupled with low margins, this investment will naturally result in a lower cash tax rate.
Facebook had the second-biggest tax gap with the cash tax it paid representing 10.2 percent of the profit it made over the decade. A spokesperson for Facebook told CNBC:
In 2018 we paid $3.8 billion in corporation tax globally and our effective tax rate over the last five years is more than 20%. Under current rules we pay the vast majority of the tax we owe in the U.S. as that is where the bulk of our functions, assets and risks are located. Ultimately these are decisions for governments and we support the OECD process which is looking at new international tax rules for the digital economy.
Google ranked third with its taxes amounting to 15.8 percent of its profits with its foreign tax charge amounting to 7.1 percent. A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the report form Fair Tax Mark “ignores the reality of today’s complicated international tax system and distorts the facts documented in our regulatory filings.”
The company added: “Like other multinational companies, we pay the vast majority — more than 80% — of our corporate income tax in our home country. As we have said before, we strongly support the OECD’s work to end the current uncertainty and develop new tax principles.”
Netflix ranked fourth in the list handing over 15.8 percent of its profit while Apple ranked fifth with a tax rate of 17.1 percent. Apple told CNBC in a statement:
As the largest taxpayer in the world, we know the important role tax payments play in society. We pay all that we owe according to tax laws and local customs wherever we operate, and since 2008 Apple’s corporate taxes alone have totaled over $100 billion.
Microsoft paid the highest tax rate of 16.8 percent with a spokesperson telling CNBC: “Microsoft is fully compliant with all local laws and regulations in every country in which we operate. We serve customers in countries all over the world and our tax structure reflects that global footprint.”
Read more about the report at CNBC here.