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Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 1) 183

by xelah (#49762517) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

You maximize profit. the amount of tax you pay on profit is irrelevant to the process of maximizing it.

Not true. First, it affects debt vs equity decisions (and location decisions). Second, think about decisions on how much to invest. The tax reduces the return on investments in equities, pushing investment in to other locations and types of investment (government debt, say, or property) or reducing it in total. Corporate taxes are thought to reduce growth this way - by reducing the amount of capital and research.

Comment: Re:Will this happen elsewhere? (Score 1) 183

by xelah (#49762483) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

All taxes are ultimately paid by people....maybe shareholders, or employees, or customers, but always people even if via a corporate proxy. For corporate taxes it seems to be employees that pay the most

A much better answer would be to abolish corporate taxes and instead tax dividends through existing income tax systems. It'd get rid of a whole layer of distortion and bureaucracy, increase investment, reduce the destabilizing debt-over-equity preference (if the same tax was applied to debt interest) and it'd be a lot harder to avoid because, unlike profits, dividend payments are mostly an easily determined amount going to a shareholder in an easily determined country. Oh, and international tax competition would work less well: few shareholders will move to make their dividends cheaper.

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 1) 183

by xelah (#49762457) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Taxes on profits affect quite a few bad things, but mostly not related to prices.

First, they reduce wage payments (75% of the amount of tax changes paid for that way according to http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/ideas-... but estimates vary).

Second, they reduce investment (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/263560/4069_CT_Dynamic_effects_paper_20130312_IW_v2.pdf guesses at a 2.5-4.5% change from the 28% to 20% reduction in the UK - and about £500 more per household per year in wages).

Finally, they distort stuff. Companies borrow more and raise less in equity (no corporate tax in interest), and become less stable. They distort their operations and do pointless paperwork to exploit tax loopholes. This is waste.

Comment: Re:meanwhile (Score 1) 342

by xelah (#49290165) Attached to: UK Chancellor Confirms Introduction of 'Google Tax'

To back this up, here's a paper on the effect of corporate taxes on wages: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/ideas-...

It says that a $1 increase in corporate taxes reduces the wage bill by $0.75.

However, exactly where the taxes fall is quite opaque and estimates vary a lot. That's one reason politicians can't/won't get rid of the taxes: everybody thinks someone else pays them.

Comment: Re:It's a vast field.... (Score 1) 809

by xelah (#49055857) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

You can encrypt with two public keys, and for decryption send it off to your two key-holding machines in turn.

Or you can go one step further and encrypt the card number with two one-time pads, store the encrypted card number and encrypted one time pads, and do the decryption by sending the pads off to be decrypted by the separately-controlled systems. Then the key-holding machines don't have access to any card data themselves.

PCI DSS even requires that no one person can have a 'key component' which gives them any knowledge of the full key. So you can't just split a key in to two halves, even if you could do the decryption. I can't help thinking that whoever wrote it really wanted to write 'just by an HSM'.

Comment: Re:It's a vast field.... (Score 1) 809

by xelah (#49054055) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

Symmetrically encrypted credit cards, OK, I can see it, though it's far from a silver bullet.

Symmetrically encrypting credit card numbers is tough to do within the rules unless you have a hardware security module. Under PCI DSS, the complete key used for decryption is not allowed to be within the control of one person, including the sysadmin. So, you can't have the complete key on one machine because then the sysadmin can get it (except HSMs, which prevent even the administrator from getting at the keys). You can, however, have two physically separately controlled machines, with no overlapping access rights, and use keys in both.

Then, to reduce latency, load, failure risk, etc., you can have a public key on your server and use it for encrypting card numbers during payments, and use a much more expensive and complicated process for decrypting them when you need to make refunds.

If someone has hacked your database layer, they probably have your decryption keys from the app layer too.

That's one reason for the rule. The other is to stop someone (including a sysadmin) running off with the complete key - instead, they'd have to send the encrypted data through the online decryption process. Not only is that logged (and possibly limited), it may be something that you don't have access to if, say, you've stolen a backup or decommissioned disk.

Comment: Re:It's a vast field.... (Score 1) 809

by xelah (#49054039) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

For a software architect type of position you're going to need a good overview of the techniques available for solving a business and technical problem. You don't need to know what commands to use, you certainly don't need to know the maths behind RSA, but not knowing of the existence of public key cryptography is not a good sign. It's not a difficult thing to know, it can occasionally allow you to think of design solutions you'd never have otherwise thought of, and is surely totally standard in a CS degree.

On its own maybe it's not a fatal flaw - it's never going to be hard to find a question you know the answer to but your interviewer doesn't and so it's an easy trap to overstate the importance of something like that. Probably someone else would thing the same thing about never having heard of XA distributed transactions, or Spring, or sed or somesuch. And I don't think it's a good interview technique to fish for a very specific answer; better, I think, to pose a higher level technical or business problem and interactively sketch out design decisions.

But, still, someone making high level design decisions about software should be someone curious enough to want to know what it is once they've heard of it.

Comment: Re:Double Irish? TAX ALL FOREIGNERS!!! (Score 1) 825

by xelah (#48956773) Attached to: Obama Proposes One-Time Tax On $2 Trillion US Companies Hold Overseas

An American company can make a profit in Norway using Danish workers and pay it out to a shareholder in Brazil, and yet pay US taxes. Also, you might think that corporate taxes are paid by shareholders, but mostly they come out of wages. This paper comes to a figure of 75% out of wages: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/ideas-... . Why should Danish workers and Brazilian shareholders pay US taxes on work done in Norway?

Defining 'profit', never mind 'profit in country x', is difficult and this is easy to abuse. It's not progressive (it doesn't depend on the income of whoever pays it) and is one of the easier taxes to avoid.

A better system would be to use your income tax system to tax the dividends received by your residents and scrap corporate taxes. It removes a whole layer of bureaucracy, avoidance and international tax competition. With a very small number of exceptions, most people will not emigrate to avoid tax in the way that companies do. And it's fairer: labour income is far more heavily taxed than other kinds and there should be some equalization (it should, of course, be combined with equalization with taxes on interest, capital gains and so on).

Comment: Re:Great (Score 1) 602

by xelah (#48521125) Attached to: UK Announces 'Google Tax'

Damn, I'm slightly out with the first number. It should be £12074. To spend 30k on an employee you make the official salary be £26362, you pay as the employer 13.8% (£3638) on employers' national insurance contributions, then the employee pays 12% employee's national insurance and 20% income tax (£8436) on that.

What's ridiculous is that the amount in your contract (26,362) isn't equal to any of the amounts of money involved. It's not what it costs the employer to pay you (30k), it's not what you receive.

Comment: Re:Great (Score 1) 602

by xelah (#48521099) Attached to: UK Announces 'Google Tax'

It doesn't have to be done that way, an alternative is to tax corporate profits entirely as personal income when they become dividends, and not tax them at the corporate level at all. Then it's much less ambiguous which country and rate applies.

Suppose a UK company has £30k it wants to pay to you and you're already in the standard tax bracket. The total tax paid can be:

  • As an employee: 13.8%, then 12% + 20% = £12415
  • As a lender or pensioner: 20% = £6000
  • As a shareholder (very small company, from profits, no avoidance): 20% then 10% = £8400
  • As a shareholder (big company, from profits, no avoidance): 21% then 10% = £8670
  • As a shareholder (big company, corporation tax completely avoided): 10% = £3000

See how it's employees who get screwed the most? And how much variation there can be between companies?

Instead of trying to make an impossible system work, I think it'd be better to charge about 30% on all (middle level) incomes (except maybe pensions) and scrap all the other taxes, including the corporate ones.

It's where we'll end up anyway if countries continue to compete on corporate tax rate.

Comment: Re:wont last (Score 1) 287

by xelah (#48432557) Attached to: Customers Creating Fake Amazon Pages To Get Cheap Electronics At Walmart

Because the objective of price matching policies is to convert a competitors sale to your sale. If the competitor can't fulfill the order then you haven't lost a customer to them and don't need to price match.

Only partly. Traditionally, price matching was an anti-competitive measure to support prices. It says to your competitors 'don't both trying to compete on price because we'll just match you and we'll both lose'.

Comment: Re:Obviously. Dinsaurogenic Global Warming (Score 1) 695

An increase in extreme weather, on the other hand, makes gardening and farming a whole lot harder. A frost or drought at the wrong time can completely destroy your crop. You can adapt to changing conditions by growing different crops, but only if you know what the weather is likely to be like. Otherwise your frost tolerant plants get killed by drought one year and then your drought tolerant plants get killed by floods the next.

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