Microsoft evade el pago de $4,5 mil millones en Impuestos

POR LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTIEMBRE 24, 2012

En los Estados Unidos, la falta de pago de los impuestos es visto por las autoridades como uno de los mayores delitos cometidos contra el gobierno. Los individuos que evaden impuestos son etiquetados como delincuentes, incluso antes de ser juzgados en un tribunal de justicia. Los que hablan en contra del pago de impuestos sin la adecuada representación son igualados a locos o teóricos de la conspiración.

Pero cuando se trata de impuestos que las corporaciones deben pagar, las cartas sobre la mesa siempre favorecen a quienes no pagan. Empresas como Facebook, Google, Apple y Microsoft son algunas de las más conocidas corporaciones que evaden el pago de impuestos. Estas empresas tienen éxito en la evasión del pago de impuestos gracias a las lagunas que quedan abiertas en la legislación fiscal que les permite — con un mar de trucos legales — mover sus ganancias al extranjero con el fin de evitar el pago. Esta es la conclusión de un nuevo informe de un subcomité del Senado de EE.UU..

Uno de los últimos casos es el de Microsoft, la empresa fundada por el magnate Bill Gates. El gigante de la tecnología evitó el pago de $ 4,5 mil millones en impuestos entre 2009 y 2011. Microsoft se las arregló para enviar unos $ 21 mil millones en ganancias al extranjero, lo que permitió a la empresa evadir el pago de impuestos que de otra manera habrían sido recogidos por el Servicio de Rentas Internas estadounidense. Los miles de millones de dólares no pagados por Microsoft corresponde a los impuestos sobre las ventas que la empresa tuvo durante dos años completos según el informe del subcomité del Senado.

Métodos similares para evitar el pago de impuestos sobre las ventas han sido utilizados por otras grandes corporaciones, según informa el Huffington Post. Apple, por ejemplo, recaudó alrededor de $ 45 mil millones en 2011, pero sólo pagó $ 3 mil millones en impuestos. Eso se debe a que la empresa crea filiales en ciudades conocidas como “paraísos fiscales”, donde los impuestos corporativos son 0%. Apple también se las arregla para completar la venta de productos digitales desde otros países, así que cuando la empresa vende una canción o un software, el pago se realiza a la filial en Luxemburgo, por ejemplo, y no en los EE.UU..

Otras compañías como Google y Hewlett-Packard también tuvieron éxito en evitar los impuestos corporativos en los últimos años. Mientras que Apple evitó impuestos sobre $ 34,5 mil millones entre 2009 y 2011, Google esquivó los impuestos en $ 24 mil millones. Hewlett-Packard, utiliza lo que el informe del Congreso califica de préstamos giratorios a corto plazo con sus filiales para evitar el pago de miles de millones de dólares en impuestos desde 2008. El congresista Carl Levin dijo que HP mantiene miles de millones de dólares en efectivo fuera de los Estados Unidos — $ 17 mil millones en 2010 — que la compañía lo prestó a su sede en EE.UU. para evitar pagar impuestos sobre ese dinero.

Como se muestra arriba, el caso de Microsoft no es única en el no pago de impuestos. Eso es lo que los que quienes prepararon el informe creen y eso es lo que sus conclusiones parecen sugerir. También examinan cómo las multinacionales trasladaron sus operaciones a países donde los impuestos son más favorables. Por cierto, lo hacen legalmente, lo que demuestra la debilidad del código de impuestos en los Estados Unidos cuando se trata de exigir a las empresas responsables su parte de la carga tributaria.

Lo contrario es cierto para los individuos, que no disfrutan de las lagunas fiscales que las empresas como Microsoft tienen para enviar dinero fuera de los EE.UU.. De hecho, el gobierno de EE.UU. anunció cambios en el código tributario para evitar que las personas muevan sus ahorros o ganancias al extranjero. Pero nada ha sido hecho para el lado corporativo.

La falta de pago del impuestos por parte de las corporaciones recorre cada año el Congreso de los EE.UU., pero ha sido aún más relevante este año debido a la necesidad estadounidense de encontrar dinero para financiar su gasto fuera de control. En el caso de las empresas de tecnología, se han utilizado los derechos de propiedad intelectual, derechos de autor y licencias como forma de evitar la responsabilidad.

Microsoft ha dicho que la empresa no hace nada irregular y puso de relieve la compleja estructura del sistema tributario estadounidense. La compañía también dice que ha sido muy complaciente con la investigación del Congreso. El senador Carl Levin, sin embargo, cree que las prácticas utilizadas por Microsoft son por lo menos “cuestionables”.

Según el diario El País, la cantidad de dinero movida por Microsoft corresponde aproximadamente a la mitad de sus ventas en los EE.UU.. Ese dinero, dice el diario español, generalmente se envía a otros países, como Irlanda. En las investigaciones del Congreso de los Estados Unidos y las iniciativas que buscan reducir la falta de pago de impuestos por parte de corporaciones por lo general terminan en nada. Aunque tanto los republicanos como los demócratas están de acuerdo en que algo hay que hacer, “no pueden ponerse de acuerdo sobre la forma” en que esto debe ser hecho en el Congreso para evitar que empresas como HP y Cisco Systems logren escapar sin pagar impuestos en los EE.UU..

“En un momento en que decisiones presupuestarias difíciles se están realizando, mientras que las familias enfrentan aumentos de impuestos y recortes de gastos en importantes programas públicos de educación y salud, estas situación es inaceptable”, dijo Levin.

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Microsoft Evades Paying $4.5 billion in Taxes

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

In the United States, the non-payment of taxes is seen by the authorities as one of the infuriating offenses against the government. Individuals who evade taxes are labeled as criminals, even before being tried in a court of law. Those who speak against taxation without representation are equaled to crazy people or conspiracy theorists.

But when it comes to corporate taxation, the tables always turn in favor of the non payers. Corporations such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are some of the best known offenders. These corporations are successful in evading the payment of taxes thanks to loopholes left open in tax legislation that allows them to — with a sea of legal tricks — move their profits overseas in order to avoid payment. This is the conclusion of a new U.S. Senate subcommittee report.

One of the latest cases is that of Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The technology giant avoided paying $4.5 billion in taxes between 2009 and 2011. Microsoft managed to send some $21 billion in profits abroad, which allowed the company to evade the payment of taxes that otherwise would have been collected by the American Internal Revenue Service. The billions of dollars not paid by Microsoft corresponded to taxes on the sales the company had during two complete years according to report by the Senate investigations subcommittee of the U.S. Congress.

Similar methods to avoid paying sales taxes have been used by other large corporations, reports the Huffington Post. Apple, for example, earned around $45 billion in 2011, but paid only $3 billion in taxes. That is because the company creates subsidiaries in cities known as ‘tax heavens’ where corporate taxes are 0%. Apple also manages to complete sales of digital products from foreign countries, so when the company sells a song or software, the payment is made to subsidiaries in Luxemburg, and not in the U.S..

Other companies like Google and HP also succeeded in avoiding corporate taxes in the last few years. While Apple avoided taxes on $34.5 billion between 2009 and 2011, Google dodged taxes on $24 billion. Hewlett-Packard, used what the congressional report calls a number of  revolving short-term loans with its subsidiaries to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes since 2008. Congressman Carl Levin said HP  kept billions of dollars in cash outside of the United States — $17 billion in 2010 — that it lent to its U.S. headquarters to avoid paying taxes on that money.

As shown above, the case of Microsoft is not unique. That is what those who prepared the report believe and that is what their conclusions seem to suggest. They also examine how multinationals transferred their operations to countries where taxation is more favorable. By the way, they do it legally, which shows how weak the tax code is in the United States when it comes to holding corporations accountable for their share of the tax burden.

The opposite is true for individuals, who do not enjoy the tax loopholes that corporations like Microsoft have to send money outside of the U.S.. In fact, the U.S. government announced changes in the tax code to prevent individuals from moving their savings or investment gains abroad. Nothing was prepared to do the same on the corporate side.

The non payment of corporate tax goes around every year in the U.S. Congress, but it has been even more relevant this year due to the American need to find cash to finance its out of control government spending, which in turn ran up the deficit. In the case of these technology firms, they’ve used intellectual property rights, royalties and licensing as ways to avoid accountability.

Microsoft has said it does do anything irregular and highlighted the complex structure of the American tax system. The company also says it has been very accommodating with the congressional investigation. Senator Carl Levin, however, believes that the practices used by Microsoft are at least “questionable”.

According to the newspaper El País, the amount shuffled in the Microsoft case corresponds to about half of its sales in the U.S.. That money, says the Spanish newspaper, is often sent to other countries such as Ireland. In the United States congressional investigations and initiatives that seek to curb the non payment of corporate taxes usually end in nothing. Although both Republicans and Democrats agree that something needs to be done, they cannot agree on the way Congress should approach the closing of loopholes to avoid that companies like HP and Cisco Systems manage to get away without paying taxes in the U.S..

“At a time when difficult budget decisions are being made, while families face tax increases and spending cuts in critical public programs in  education and health, these situation is unacceptable” said Levin.

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Skype to give more user information to police

By CRAIG TIMBERG | WASHINGTON POST | JULY 26, 2012

Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.

Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.

The changes to online chats, which are written messages conveyed almost instantaneously between users, result in part from technical upgrades to Skype that were instituted to address outages and other stability issues since Microsoft bought the company last year. Officials of the United States and other countries have long pushed to expand their access to newer forms of communications to resolve an issue that the FBI calls the “going dark” problem.

Microsoft has approached the issue with “tremendous sensitivity and a canny awareness of what the issues would be,” said an industry official familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who like several people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. The company has “a long track record of working successfully with law enforcement here and internationally,” he added.

The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.

Authorities had for years complained that Skype’s encryption and other features made tracking drug lords, pedophiles and terrorists more difficult. Jihadis recommended the service on online forums. Police listening to traditional wiretaps occasionally would hear wary suspects say to one another, “Hey, let’s talk on Skype.”

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Your Internet History out in the Open

If you appreciate privacy, anonymity and safety, you are in the wrong universe.

by Daisy Luther
Inalienable Yours
February 15, 2012

What if there was a little box that could be placed in your home that could…..

…. track every Google search that you ran?

…. see who you email?

…. see from whom you receive emails?

…. watch your keystrokes to learn all your passwords?

…. turn on a camera and watch you at any given time?

…. gather information about your likes, dislikes, political affiliations and religious beliefs?

…. dispense all of the above personal data to fusion centers, whose only purpose is to put together profiles of you and your family?

As it turns out, there is such a box, and if you are reading this, you’re on it right now.  You not only voluntarily brought this device into your home, you paid good money for it.  Your computer is spying on you.

The home computer is bar none the greatest information sharing device ever created.  We can study anything our little hearts desire.  We can meet other people anywhere on the globe who have similar interests to us.  We can be kept constantly up to date with news, communication with friends and family and updates to our inboxes about myriad topics.

Unfortunately there is a dark side to having a home computer.  A home computer means that someone else could have constant access to us.

Read Full Article…

 

Facebook Spying Explained

Besides being a child of In-Q-Tel, a CIA  front company, Facebook is also financed in part by Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Hong Kong magnate Sir Ka-shing Li and venture capitalist Peter Andreas Thiel.

by Byron Acohido
USAToday
November 17, 2011

In recent weeks, Facebook has been wrangling with the Federal Trade Commission over whether the social media website is violating users’ privacy by making public too much of their personal information.

This is how Facebook spies on you. Click to enlarge. Image: USAToday

Far more quietly, another debate is brewing over a different side of online privacy: what Facebook is learning about those who visit its website.

Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.

To do this, the company relies on tracking cookie technologies similar to the controversial systems used by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo and others in the online advertising industry, says Arturo Bejar, Facebook’s engineering director.

Facebook’s efforts to track the browsing habits of visitors to its site have made the company a player in the “Do Not Track” debate, which focuses on whether consumers should be able to prevent websites from tracking the consumers’ online activity.

If they happen to miss you the first way, they have a back up plan. Click to enlarge.

For online business and social media sites, such information can be particularly valuable in helping them tailor online ads to specific visitors. But privacy advocates worry about how else the information might be used, and whether it might be sold to third parties.

New guidelines for online privacy are being hashed out in Congress and by the World Wide Web Consortium, which sets standards for the Internet.

If privacy advocates get their way, consumers soon could be empowered to stop or limit tech companies and ad networks from tracking them wherever they go online. But the online advertising industry has dug in its heels, trying to retain the current self-regulatory system.

Online tracking involves technologies that tech companies and ad networks have used for more than a decade to help advertisers deliver more relevant ads to each viewer. Until now, Facebook, which makes most of its profits from advertising, has been ambiguous in public statements about the extent to which it collects tracking data.

And the third weapon used for spying by a social network is this one. Click to enlarge.

It contends that it does not belong in the same camp as Google, Microsoft and the rest of the online ad industry’s major players. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made this point to interviewer Charlie Rose on national TV last week.

For the past several weeks, Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials have sought to distinguish how Facebook and others use tracking data. Facebook uses such data only to boost security and improve how “Like” buttons and similar Facebook plug-ins perform, Bejar told USA TODAY. Plug-ins are the ubiquitous web applications that enable you to tap into Facebook services from millions of third-party web pages.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes says the company has “no plans to change how we use this data.” He also says the company’s intentions “stand in stark contrast to the many ad networks and data brokers that deliberately and, in many cases, surreptitiously track people to create profiles of their behavior, sell that content to the highest bidder, or use that content to target ads.”

Conflicting pressures

Rather than appease its critics, Facebook’s public explanations of how it tracks and how it uses tracking data have touched off a barrage of questions from technologists, privacy advocates, regulators and lawmakers around the world.

“Facebook could be tracking users without knowledge or permission, which could be an unfair or deceptive business practice,” says Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsor with Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, of a bill aimed at limiting online tracking of children.

The company “should be covered by strong privacy safeguards,” Markey says. “The massive trove of personal information that Facebook accumulates about its users can have a significant impact on them — now and into the future.”

Noting that “Facebook is the most popular social media website in the world,” Barton adds, “All websites should respect users’ privacy.”

After Zuckerberg appeared on the Charlie Rose TV show last week, Markey and Barton sent a letter to the 27-year-old CEO asking him to explain why Facebook recently applied for a U.S. patent for technology that includes a method to correlate tracking data with advertisements. They gave Zuckerberg a Dec. 1 deadline to reply.

“We patent lots of things, and future products should not be inferred from our patent application,” Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt says.

Facebook is under intense, conflicting pressures.

It must prove to its global financial backers that it is worthy of the hundreds of millions of dollars they’ve poured into the company, financial and tech industry analysts say. Those investors include Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, the Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, Hong Kong financier Sir Ka-shing Li and venture capitalist Peter Andreas Thiel.

You may also want to read:

Invasive Cyber Technologies and Internet Privacy

Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover For Spying

Read Full Article…

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