How Can We Tax Footloose Multinationals?
Apple, Google, Starbucks, and companies like them all claim to be socially responsible, but the first element of social responsibility should be paying your fair share of tax. Instead, globalization has enabled multinationals to encourage a race to the bottom, threatening the revenues that governments need to function properly.
NEW YORK – In the last few years, globalization has come under renewed attack. Some of the criticisms may be misplaced, but one is spot on: globalization has enabled large multinationals, like Apple, Google, and Starbucks, to avoid paying tax.
Apple has become the poster child for corporate tax avoidance, with its legal claim that a few hundred people working in Ireland were the real source of its profits, and then striking a deal with that country’s government that resulted in its paying a tax amounting to .005% of its profit. Apple, Google, Starbucks, and companies like them all claim to be socially responsible, but the first element of social responsibility should be paying your fair share of tax. If everyone avoided and evaded taxes like these companies, society could not function, much less make the public investments that led to the Internet, on which Apple and Google depend.
For years, multinational corporations have encouraged a race to the bottom, telling each country that it must lower its taxes below that of its competitors. US President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut culminated that race. A year later, we can see the results: the sugar high it brought to the US economy is quickly fading, leaving behind a mountain of debt (which increased by more than $1 trillion dollars last year).
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in