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Comment: Re:Misleading headline (Score 1) 188

by IamTheRealMike (#49762811) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Actually, I think this move has got nothing do with the UK specifically. It's to do with the EU VAT changes that make Luxembourg no longer advantageous to sell from. Those changes came at grievous cost to small businesses but the EU doesn't seem to care.

Anyway. This whole thing is bad news. The UK is currently trying to throw the idea of tax law in the bin by passing stuff like the "General Anti Avoidance Rule", which literally says anything the government doesn't like is illegal (retroactively), i.e. it's not a law at all, but rather a return to the time of kings. The "diverted profits tax" amounts to the same thing - if the government sees something it wants, it'll take it, and there's nothing resembling normal legal processes to stop them e.g. no requirement to specify exactly what they will take and when.

In effect the UK is enacting an equivalent of America's civil asset forfeiture schemes, but for business rather than individuals, and with the justification of balancing budgets rather than the war on drugs. But they amount to the same thing - the law says they can seize money whenever they like, without needing any meaningful justification. And if you don't like it you can appeal to the same people who took the money in the first place.

It took decades of civil asset forfeiture abuse before it became bad enough to trigger real investigations/reforms in America, and the damage inflicted on civil society has been huge. When the laws were passed in the 1980's it's safe to say that the authors didn't really think through what would happen over the long term, even though the outcome was rather predictable.

I think what the Tories are doing will be the same - if these new taxes aren't struck down by the courts then in the long run they will inflict lasting and serious damage. It'll be hard to see at first because the new powers will only be used against very high profile and controversial cases, and then as governments constantly find they're out of cash, they'll go on tax raids ever more frequently with ever more dubious justifications as to why it's OK. And the impact will be that some businesses leave, others simply don't establish bases in the UK at all, and some businesses that would have been good are just never created in the first place.

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 1) 188

by IamTheRealMike (#49762787) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

But if you think about it, at the moment transnational businesses have an unfair tax advantage over national ones

Yes, they do. It's called free trade and is generally seen as very desirable, as it reduces paperwork and leads to countries competing to be better places to do business than their neighbours. That's why countries are always trying to sign free trade deals with each other - freer trade means more trade, and in the long run that leads to people being better off.

The problem the UK has is entirely and completely that it has become uncompetitive as a place to do business within in the EU. It's being outcompeted by places like Ireland and Luxembourg - hardly third world backwaters. The UK could regain all those businesses that set up shop in other countries and reap the benefits of the jobs and the income taxes those jobs create, but is unwilling to do so. The Irish people, in contrast, clearly signalled even during the depths of their (bank induced) economic crisis that low corporation taxes were popular and not to be meddled with. They're committed to being one of the best places to set up shop in the EU.

So where do things go from here? Amazon is moving and is now establishing local subsidiaries in places like the UK because the EU has rolled back key parts of the single market via the online VAT changes. If you're incredibly short sighted this might look superficially like a win, because it's eliminated the competitive advantages some EU member states had. If you look a bit closer you discover that to get Luxembourg's assent to this required effectively paying them for the lost tax income over a period of many years, so there's no net savings for a long time, it's pure smoke and mirrors. Worst of all, whilst Amazon can afford the miniature army of lawyers and accountants needed to handle the VAT fiasco, smaller companies generally can't. That was the whole point of the EU in the first place - to eliminate that sort of red tape. So everyone in Europe will suffer in the coming years from lack of services that would otherwise have existed, but don't, because the companies that could have provided them decided not to enter your local market due to compliance costs.

The most insidious effect of all this crap is that it will gravely worsen the problem that the EU tech industry is far behind Silicon Valley. Politicians love to bitch and moan about how dominated Europe is by American internet companies. One big reason is that if you start a company in America you immediately have access to a huge and linguistically unified single market. You can base yourself in California or Seattle and sell to the whole of the USA. Fixing the language issue is hard, but lots of people speak good English these days so it's going away of its own accord. Fixing the single market should have been a lot easier ..... and they were making progress, except that the moment some politicians felt they were missing out on tax revenue they rolled it all back. Perversely it's now easier for a European company to sell things online to the USA than it is to sell online to Europe!

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 5, Insightful) 188

by IamTheRealMike (#49762749) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Uhhhh - yes, there is something immoral about tax avoidance. Virtually all of the schemes used to avoid taxes were lobbied for by corporations

Bullshit.

The "loophole" that Amazon has been using is nothing more than the EU single market, in all its glory, exactly as it was intended to be used. The single market was created specifically so companies could set up a headquarters in the EU once, and then sell to the entire trade region without having to register or pay taxes in every single country. This wasn't some clever loophole or corporate scheme, it was constructed, very deliberately and specifically, by politicians that wanted to bring Europe together to avoid another re-run of the World Wars.

When the EU and its predecessors were being set up, governments were all super keen to establish this sort of single market because they saw it as a way to allow their own home-grown champion companies to expand, by selling to people elsewhere on the continent. Paying tax in a single country is fundamental to having a single market, otherwise the paperwork involved with understanding and filling out dozens of tax returns in langauges you don't speak would just be overwhelming. At the time, presumably those politicians didn't care that this meant one day there would be non home-grown companies selling to their people - creating big new companies takes decades and sure enough this "scandal" has only appeared long after the EU was set up and a new generation of companies started moving in.

Regardless, the idea that these companies are grubby scheming tax evaders is pure, unadulterated propaganda. They're doing exactly what they were intended to do - set up a single HQ and sell to everyone from it. The idea that what was once desirable is now immoral is being pushed by the UK media and government to try and distract people from the core fact that there are going to be way, way more cuts and they will be way deeper than anything that's happened up until now. That's not Amazon's fault - the amounts involved are trivial. The fault rests solely on the British people and their leaders.

Comment: Re:The Road Warrior (Score 1) 774

...not a sequel, but a cash-in remake.
It's not a Mad Max movie. The main character isn't Max, the atmosphere isn't Mad Max's, it just happened to have spiked cars chasing plated cars in the wastland.

Indeed. What they should have done was get the writer/director of the original film, who I gather had been trying to get a sequel made for over a decade, to come and write and direct the new one. Clearly whoever they got to write this didn't really understand Max's character at all.</sarcasm>

Comment: Forwarding... (Score 3, Funny) 776

One thing she could have done - turn call forwarding to a private phone on, so that the 24/7 condition is met, and then... sky's the limit.

Get a friendly taxi driver to take the phone for the night.
Put it on an RC plane and take it for a trip over the city center.
Put it in a box and attach with a magnet to your boss' car.
Borrow it for a friend who does car races (preferably illegal) to take it for a 200MPH ride.
Root the phone, get a GPS spoofing app and "send it to Antarctica".

Or just leave it in a desk drawer at work...

Comment: Re:Mother of all assumptions (Score 1) 182

by SharpFang (#49666171) Attached to: The Challenge of Web Hosting Once You're Dead

There's always an option of energy hoarding. I saw that sci-fi once; the whole universe is long dead but the civilization thrives on a single isle of enormous hoard of energy picked before that. Yes, that means the universe isn't -entirely- dead, but its final thermal death is prolonged far past its natural date through artificial means buying the civilization extra time to either migrate to a different universe or trigger a new big bang.

Plus it's not entirely sure if space expansion can't be harnessed as an energy source; that effect seems to increase potential energy between distant objects at no cost at all - a mysterious source of negative entropy.

Comment: Re:Lawsuit incoming? (Score 1) 90

by SharpFang (#49660217) Attached to: How To Set Up a Pirate EBook Store In Google Play Books

Not to mention any more considerable violation results in a lawsuit against the violator, and in that case eBay must provide whatever help available in identifying and locating the violator.

Here, we're playing whack-a-mole, with Google pretending to help while in reality they protect the violators.

Comment: Re:if I am dead (Score 1) 182

by SharpFang (#49660201) Attached to: The Challenge of Web Hosting Once You're Dead

That's a very selfish approach.

What about giving of yourself freely to the world? Contributing - and making sure your contributions stay around, available to these, who need them?

Maybe they aren't significant enough for someone to establish some estate that would perpetuate publishing them; that doesn't mean they are useless - and sure once I'm dead I won't care what happens to them and the rest of the world, but currently I am alive and I do care.

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