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Irish Trade Minister: Internet Giants "Not Ethical" In Seeking Tax Havens



DUBLIN - It's such a simple system. You buy something and it is sent to you. What you don't know is that the transaction is done through a company in Luxembourg that pays very little to the Grand Duchy and almost nothing to the Ministries of Finance.

Amazon, the company that sells via the Internet has their European headquarters in the tax haven of Ireland and they deposit their seeds into the various other markets across the continent.

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Photo: Balajimuthazhagan via Wikipedia

"It's a question that we will deal with" assures Joe Costello, Irish Minister for Trade and Development, in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa.

He is angry with online trading companies that willfully look to pay less tax than they should, like Amazon, by passing their revenues through low-tax havens like Luxembourg, the Channel Islands and Ireland itself.

"It's legal" admits Costello "but I don't think that it's ethical".

The European Parliament has raised the issue and even the more free-market oriented British have too. This is not only a practice that represents a loss of revenue to the governments, but is a potentially unfair competition against other retailers. "If we do not act, there will be people to force us to" insists Costello. In Ireland there is a corporate tax of just 12.5%.

The Irish Times reported in November that France had made a $252 million tax claim against Amazon, signalling a widening crackdown by Paris on multinational companies that channel profits through low-tax countries. France has long protested against Ireland’s low tax rate and hopes EU discussions on a common consolidated corporate tax base will lead to a more harmonized system.

Minister Costello told La Stampa Ireland also has a serious problem with Google, which winds up paying an estimated 2% in taxes after deductions are accounted for. "They tell us that they create jobs and pay taxes, but we don't think it's enough," says Costello.

The issue has not yet been defined by the Irish government, which presides over the EU for the next six months; Costello believes that it might be more effective to raise the debate in Brussels.

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Google's Dublin HQ at the Grand Canal Docklands. Photo: infomatique via Flickr

According to The New York Times, though Google employees across Europe advise clients on the use of the company’s services, advertisers sign contracts with the company’s subsidiary in Ireland. This has shielded Google from tax liability in France, Britain and other European countries, at least so far. French fiscal authorities are now seeking back taxes and penalties from Google, amounting to 1.7 billion euros.

“Google is saying, ‘We just float around freely above this useful aircraft carrier, Ireland,” said Richard Murphy, founder of the Tax Justice Network, an independent organization that campaigns against what it calls tax “loopholes and distortions.” “What France is saying is, ‘We don’t think you float around over Ireland, we think you are in France.’”

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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