Tax Break

Essential reading: Microsoft’s Nevada tax break, debating Apple’s tax rate, and more

May 1, 2012

A rainbow appears over hotels on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, REUTERS/Ethan Miller

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Microsoft heads to Nevada again for tax perks. Maxwell Murphy – The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft’s $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble’s digital reading and college bookstore operations, announced on Monday, offers another peek into the way companies use Nevada as a way to shelter income from taxes. Microsoft formed Morrison Investment Holdings as a Nevada corporation on April 5, adding to the list of dozens of Microsoft investment subsidiaries incorporated in Nevada, rather than in its home state of Washington, over at least the past two decades. Nevada doesn’t tax corporate income or capital gains. Link

* Apple’s tax rate: 9.8 percent? Hayley Tsukayama – The Washington Post. A weekend story from the New York Times shared a surprising statistic: Apple paid just $3.3 billion on $34.2 billion of profits last year — giving it a tax rate of just 9.8 percent. The 9.8 percent figure, reported earlier by the Greenlining Institute, may be based on the wrong calculations for Apple’s tax share. In its own tax filings, Apple reported these tax rate figures paid in the last three years: “approximately 24.2 percent, 24.4 percent and 31.8 percent for 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively.” Link

* Mobius says India’s proposed tax rules a ‘big mistake.’ Choonsik Yoo – Reuters. India is faltering as an investment destination because of significant policy mistakes, and stock prices there will slide if the nation’s credit rating is cut, according to Mark Mobius, one of the world’s best-known emerging market investors. “The Indian government has been making many many big policy mistakes. The most important of all is the idea of having retroactive taxation,” Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, told Reuters in a phone interview from the Bahamas. Link

* IRS looking at Chesapeake’s CEO well program-filing. Anna Driver – Reuters. Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) said on Monday the Internal Revenue Service was reviewing issues related to the company’s perk that grants its chief executive officer a stake in thousands of wells the company drills, according to a regulatory filing. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Chesapeake disclosed “the IRS is reviewing certain issues” related to its Founders Well Participation Program (FWPP) granting CEO Aubrey McClendon the right to take a 2.5 percent interest in every well the company drills. Link

* Italy to cut spending and avoid VAT rise. Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti – The Financial Times. Mario Monti’s technocrat government is to cut public spending by 4.2 billion euros ($5.56 billion) this year to keep Italy on course to meet its budget deficit targets rather than resort to a planned increase in value added tax that would risk deepening the recession. Monti said the reduction, to begin in June, would remove the need to increase VAT by two percentage points in October in order to keep Italy on track for its budget target, set at a deficit of 1.7 percent of GDP for 2012. Link

* Taxes and employment. Bruce Bartlett – The New York Times opinion. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Republicans have insisted that tax cuts and only tax cuts are the appropriate medicine. They almost never explain how, exactly, this would reduce unemployment other than to say it worked for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The latest Republican tax cut proposal, to reduce taxes for all businesses with fewer than 500 employees, no matter how profitable or big in other respects, would be in effect for only one year. There is simply no evidence that cutting taxes at the present time will do anything to raise employment. Link

* U.S. must halt incentives for corporate tax dodges. James Temple – The San Francisco Chronicle. This weekend’s New York Times story highlighting Apple’s efforts to avoid billions in taxes isn’t a revelation about corporate behavior – it’s a wake-up call for policymakers. The real fault lies in our creaky and leaky tax code, designed for an economy centered on physical goods and riddled with loopholes that Apple, Google, Wells Fargo and other major corporations use to game the system. The core problem can be addressed only if legislators modernize the law. Link
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