Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tax Day Repurposed To "Illuminate" Corporate Tax Evaders

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With President Obama fielding cynical cuts to Social Security to appease the Fix the Debt crowd and reach a budget deal, groups are teaming up to point out that there would be a lot less concern about the budget deficit if corporate America did what average Americans have to do and actually pay taxes. Taking advantage of loopholes, tricks and deductions, many U.S. companies pay far below the required 35% tax rate, and some, like General Electric have a negative tax rate. New web resources are shining a light on the firms and individuals that manipulate the U.S. tax system to their benefit, putting more of the burden on America's middle class.

A coalition of groups have launched the new website as part of a week of action aimed at bringing attention to an estimated $100 billion per year that U.S. corporations are avoiding in taxes. The website was launched with help and research from the Citizen Engagement Lab, The Other 98%, US Uncut, The Yes Lab, Americans for Tax Fairness, U.S. Public Research Interest Group, Occupy Wall St, and the Wisconsin-founded Overpass Light Brigade.

The website is a play on the popular 1970s arcade game Space Invaders, but with a twist. The invaders are corporations who have been paying shockingly low taxes, some even manipulating loopholes to achieve a negative tax rate. The coalition takes a closer look at the taxes paid by General Electric, Bank of America, British Petroleum (BP), JPMorgan/Chase, Citigroup, ExxonMobil, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, and Wells Fargo.

There are three main sections on the website; one for entertainment, one for education, and one for action. The home page allows visitors to play a video game as a group of protestors fighting off the Tax Evaders, in order to save schools, fire stations, and other public institutions. There is also an educational section, which shows each company's profits, their tax bill, and their refund. A third section allows visitors to "fire" on the tax evaders by sending Tweets to the corporations telling them to pay their fair share.

Offshore Tax Haven Docudump Raises Profile of Tax Evasion

In case you missed it, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), released a giant load of data in April that details the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries around the world. The hoard of the documents "represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010," says the group.

The disclosures have rocked the government of French President Francois Hollande, whose budget minister was forced to acknowledge he lied about foreign holdings, and they provide a one stop shop on how tax evasion is actively pursued by corporations and individuals and facilitated by big banks around the globe. Learn more here.

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