Opinion

David Cay Johnston

America is GE’s tax haven

David Cay Johnston
Aug 23, 2011 15:35 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Washington politicians say high corporate tax rates are driving U.S. companies to invest offshore where tax rates are lower. But that is not General Electric’s experience.

GE’s disclosures show that over the last decade it paid much lower tax rates in America than offshore, just the opposite of the Washington political mantra. Even more puzzling, the U.S. corporate giant chooses to take more of its profits in other lands despite the higher tax rates there.

Given that GE has a roughly 1,000-person tax department dedicated to paying as little as possible in taxes, what the disclosures show is that something other than tax policy is driving GE’s business decisions.

The law gives companies a great deal of latitude in deciding how to arrange where they report profits from multinational transactions. GE won’t elaborate on why it takes so much of its profit in higher tax jurisdictions offshore.

Macau big for casinos, taxman

David Cay Johnston
Aug 16, 2011 16:34 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Lisboa, the oldest casino in this thriving gambling city, features a polished black marble floor flecked with what looks like glittering gold. While all gamblers eventually find only fool’s gold, like the glittering pyrite in the marble floor, government is mining real gold from the casinos here.

Macau, a special administrative region of China, is raking in 8 billion patacas (US$1 billion) a month this year in casino taxes.

Tax gateways to India

David Cay Johnston
Aug 9, 2011 15:19 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The equatorial island nations of Mauritius and Singapore are competing for the role of preferred gateway for foreign investments into India and other Asian countries.

Think of it as a triangle, not of love, but of lucre.

Companies and rich investors use gateway countries so they can earn profits in such places as India, China and Indonesia.  Favorable tax treaties let them send dividends and other payments to such places as Mauritius and Singapore while paying little or no tax. The United States can even provide such benefits under some of its tax treaties.

Think Singapore is a “low-tax” haven? Think again

Aug 8, 2011 15:54 UTC

In this recent video, David Cay Johnston examines the notion, often heard from U.S. politicians, that Singapore is a model of low taxation:

Forget taxes, it’s wages that plague Americans

David Cay Johnston
Aug 6, 2011 15:01 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
All opinions expressed are his own.

Here is how much economic progress America has made in the 21st Century: the average taxpayer’s 2009 income was at the same level as 1997.

Average 2009 income was $54,283, just $18 more than in 1997 when you adjust for inflation, not that anyone would notice a difference of $1.50 a month in their pocket.

And compared to 2007, the last peak year of the economy, average income fell a painful $8,588 or 13.7 percent in real terms. Having $716 less each month is something most people would notice.

Fact-free fiscal farce

David Cay Johnston
Aug 2, 2011 14:02 UTC

By David Cay Johnston

The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Washington debate over whether to voluntarily default on the U.S. government’s obligations revealed a serious political ailment in Congress: mass economic amnesia.

Just 11 years ago, Republicans insisted budget surpluses were bad for the economy, while Democrats told us surpluses would make the economy flourish. Al Gore said pay off the federal debt; George W. Bush said cut taxes so people would have more money.

During the Bush years Democrats decried the red-ink budgets, while Republicans assured us that no real harm would come from a $5 trillion borrow-and-spend spree.

Default and consequences

David Cay Johnston
Jul 29, 2011 17:12 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If the U.S. government voluntarily defaults, how are you going to get that tax refund? Or get paid for the work your company did for Uncle Sam?

While a last-minute agreement to raise the debt ceiling could still be reached, the risk of default as early as Tuesday is causing jitters in global financial markets and anxiety among people who depend on Social Security to eat.

Paying taxes your employer keeps

David Cay Johnston
Jul 19, 2011 17:53 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Painful as it feels to have a lot of hard-earned income taken from your paycheck for taxes, a new Illinois law does something Americans may find surprising. It lets some employers pocket taxes for 10 years.

You read that right — in Illinois the state income taxes withheld from your paycheck may be kept by your employer under a law that took effect in May. Continental Corporation, the big German tire maker; Motorola Mobility, the cell phone maker; and Navistar, the maker of diesel trucks for industry and the military, are in on the deal. State officials say a fourth company is negotiating a similar arrangement.

U.S. lotteries and the state taxman

David Cay Johnston
Jul 15, 2011 19:54 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The long-term shift in tax burdens from capital and corporations to individuals and their activities is perhaps best illustrated by the rise of state lotteries, the most heavily taxed consumer product in America.

Because gambling is voluntary, there is little organized opposition to levies on gambling winnings. Contrast that with the ferocious, well-organized and well-financed opposition to income taxes, especially corporate income taxes.

from MediaFile:

How I misread News Corp’s taxes

David Cay Johnston
Jul 13, 2011 23:07 UTC

By David Cay Johnston. The opinions expressed are his own.

Readers, I apologize. The premise of my debut column for Reuters, on News Corp's taxes, was wrong, 100 percent dead wrong.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp did not get a $4.8 billion tax refund for the past four years, as I reported. Instead, it paid that much in cash for corporate income taxes for the years 2007 through 2010 while earning pre-tax profits of $10.4 billion.

For the first time in my 45-year-old career I am writing a skinback. That is what journalists call a retraction of the premise of a piece, as in peeling back your skin and feeling the pain. I will do all I can to make sure everyone who has read or heard secondary reports based on my column also learns the facts and would appreciate the help of readers in that cause.

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