It is almost as is war had finally declared against unfair and anti-social tax avoidance in Europe. Germany policymakers, for example, have recently refused to sign a bi-lateral tax agreement with Switzerland because the new rules are not aggressive enough to curtail private tax dodging. In the UK, the heat has been turned up on multi-national firms like Google and Starbucks, who reduce their tax liability by cleverly shifting profits in low-tax jurisdictions. France’s taxmen have already demanded a €252 million back payment from Amazon related to this kind of ‘profit shifting’.
The latest prominent personality to renounce his US citizenship is the Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Apparently, Saverin gave up the US passport to avoid a hefty capital gains tax bill that he would have incurred post-IPO. However, Saverin is not a typical high net-worth individual who is renouncing his passport. The US Internal Revenue Service data showed that around 1,780 US expatriates gave up their nationality at US embassies last year, up from 235 in 2008.
The UK government’s opposition to the idea of a financial transactions tax could not be more unequivocal. Indeed, so staunch was official British defence of the financial services sector that both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London extended a cheeky invitation to French banks who wanted to set up shop in Britain after their government decided to press on alone with the tax. On hearing this, the expressions around the boardroom table at the London headquarters of HSBC must have glazed over. The bank’s chief executive insisted, over the weekend, that his institution was ‘permanently’ undervalued to the tune of £18bn because of Britain’s regulatory rules and the bank levy.
History does repeat itself, at least in terms of German fiscal policy. The federal government is thinking about cutting taxes again, just as it was two years ago. At that time officials soon came to realize that there wasn’t enough money for the plan, but now the government is counting on €16 billion more in tax revenue than it had previously expected. The overall economic situation in Germany is still quite positive, but public opinion is certainly more downbeat now than in January 2010. Back then, a large majority of German citizens didn’t think that a tax cut in the middle of a European debt crisis was particularly bright idea.
A recent debate concerns the huge windfall gain the UK government is making as a result of the rise in oil prices. Like in most European countries, the bulk of petrol prices are made up of percentage-based taxes. As the pump price rises, to record levels in the case of the UK, so the Treasury collects more in taxes.
The debate on raising UK university tuition fees to among the highest in Europe has inflamed tempers even beyond the simple vote on whether students should pay more for their own tertiary education. Yet, forming a clear opinion on the matter is complicated by the tendency of interested parties to frame their arguments in such a way that observers are almost bullied into the viewpoint of the presenter.
Dan Buettner wrote about countries and societies with the longest life expectancy in the world for his first book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Buettner’s new book, Thrive, focuses on happiness found in the ‘blue zones’ and elsewhere, and what makes those societies different from others.
Proposition 19 is a project of law which, if passed, would legalise the possession and sale of cannabis in California. Voter support for ‘Prop 19’ will be tested in the upcoming state elections and the outcome remains highly uncertain. The opinion polls have been mixed, volatile and have revealed voters split along clear lines: young (for) versus old,
No term has been more (over)used in the debate about the UK austerity plan than the word fair. ‘It is fair’, argued the Prime Minister, ‘to ask those with the broadest shoulders’ to ‘bear a greater load’. As a consequence, David Cameron considers it fair for higher-rate tax payers to forgo their child benefits
We heard this week that the Greek government plans to extract money from the unregulated and illegal gambling sector. By introducing regulation and imposing a tax on business in a sector whose turnover is estimated at some €4 billion euros, the government hopes to fill its coffers. And, before anyone cries foul, it wants to simultaneously increase taxes on legal, state-run gambling activity.
A BBC news report about the impact of future tax changes by the new coalition government in the UK provoked a flood of e-mails from viewers. The report concerned middle-income households, which might be among the hardest hit by tax hikes and benefit cuts. One viewer, whose annual household income was in the order of £50,000 complained that he would not be able get by if his taxes were raised.