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Netflix Posted Biggest-Ever Profit in 2018 and Paid $0 in Income Taxes (itep.org)
567 points by smacktoward 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 488 comments



Rather than being outraged at the headline, what are the actual details? Why were they able to pay no taxes? Was it due to carried losses or something like that?

Anyone mad at a company for not pay taxes is misdirecting their anger. Companies follow the law. If you don't like the law elect different politicians. Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.


It's not that simple. Companies lobby to keep, even coerce, laws that benefit them and allow these sorts of things to happen. What is the common person, or collection of persons, supposed to do when they are against that kind of force? I believe one way is to actually be involved in politics and get into the seats that govern and make the laws. But it's easier said than done.


It is that simple (in the sense of the parent's post): you need to know the specifics of why they were paying no taxes. If, as in the comment, they were carrying over losses, then there's nothing really objectionable. You lost $10 million last year. You profited $10 million this year. Over a reasonable horizon, you weren't profitable.

Did they get a specific exemption against the public interest that no one else got? Great! Let's talk about that!

Did they deduct 100% of their costs for sham "IP licensing" from a foreign subsidiary? Great! Let's talk about that!

But you need to know the why before you conclude there's something objectionable going on.

Edit: More generally, every headline of this form comes with an implicit statement like "By my model, <company> should be regarded as having a profit of X dollars, but tax law views them as having a taxable profit of Y < X." That necessitates a good explanation of why you think X is the right value.


>Over a reasonable horizon, you weren't profitable.

The average worker isn't allowed to do that even when they lose money in a given year. Why is it so naturally assumed to be acceptable for a business to do it? Maybe the time is to just remove the loopholes in general from both business and personal income taxes.


If the average worker has any stock or index fund investments, that worker absolutely can take advantage of this (in the U.S.). It's called tax-loss harvesting - worth reading about here [1].

[1] https://www.madfientist.com/tax-loss-harvesting/


You can only harvest $3000 in losses per year if you have more capital losses than capital gains.

That is laughably small.

And you can't deduct the losses from your other income while you can as a business.


There is no limit to the amount of capital losses carried over (i.e. harvested) year to year. These must first be applied against any capital gains (no limit AFAIK.) The $3000 limit applies to the annual amount of capital losses that may be written off against other income.

Example, in year 1 you have a $15,000 net capital loss. You write off the maximum $3,000 of this against your other income, carrying over a $12,000 capital loss. In year 2 you have a $10,000 net capital gain, this is offset against your carried over loss leaving $2,000 to write off against your income.


There is no good reason investment income should be privileged over income from labor.


One of the reasons why it makes sense to have different rules for investment income is investment income tax (at least if you're investing in a corporative stock) is a double tax - the corporation you invest in is taxed on its profit (so your income from it is less than it would be) and then your income from it is taxed again. It kinda makes sense that parts of the double tax would be less than the single one.

Of course, there's a political component of it too - taxes are always political, and are used to promote or suppress certain actions. I guess the government does want to promote long-term investment and thus defines lower tax rates for this activity.


This is only true of dividends. But I don't think it wasn't true of stock buybacks.

Also there is plenty of business income that is not double taxed because it isn't run through a C Corp.

Then in regards to incentives. We already have interest rates to adjust the knobs of investment versus consumption. Capital gains is just a way to make the tax system less progressive.


Stock buybacks come from profits which are taxed, and those who sell the shares back to the company also have to pay capital gains tax. And S corp income is taxed at personal income rates, not capital gains rates (except for some ridiculous 20% rebates in some situations in the new tax law (but is still higher than capital gains)).

You're right. I had a brain fart forgetting that buybacks are taxed as profit.

There's no reason the government wants to promote long-term investment over income-producing labor, is there?


There is. Basic level of labor is almost always there - people have to work to earn the living (even if you go into crime, you still have to work - maybe you pay taxes to different people and do different things, but you still have to do stuff to earn your money).

However, once you earned enough money, beyond subsistence level, you have a choice - you can spend it all on consumption, or you can defer some of the consumption, or give up a part of it, as an investment, in hope that this would increase your consumption abilities in the future, or you ability to retire, etc. Modern economy would not work without investment - you need massive upfront spending to lift off something like Netflix of the ground, before it starts being profitable.

This investment is, ultimately, financed by people who chose investment over consumption (might be one very rich person, or tens of thousands of not so rich people giving their money to the bank, which in turn loans it to the entrepreneurs, or likely a mix of both). Ensuring this choice remains a viable and attractive one is something that the government would definitely have an incentive to support.


This is predicted on the unstated assumption that everyone starts out from about the same place and subsequently people make a variety of different choices. It ignores the effect of inheritance or the costs of increasingly binomial wealth distribution.


At least in the US, old money effects are not as huge as one would think. Of course, everybody knows about Donald Trump, and maybe other people with inherited wealth, but there's also the survivorship effect - if somebody had rich parents and spent all the wealth how likely you to read about him in the national press? Nobody cares about those.

Moving onto more statistical approach, this one: https://www.fa-mag.com/news/most-millionaires-self-made--stu... says only 8% of millionaires inherited their wealth. For billionaires, according to this: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/269593 18% got a jump-start (maybe parents were mere millionaires, but the child became a billionaire), and 62% are self-made. So inheritance effects exist, but maybe they are not that huge? At least, clearly, not a majority.

Of course, not everybody starts in the same place. But human behavior and motivations are similar, and thus you can reason about them despite the differences.


Labor doesn't necessarily generate income. Factory workers are an up-front cost converting one set of resources into another. No income is realized until that second set of resources (i.e. products) are actually sold.

Also, realize that the government does promote both labor and investments, just through different means. Lowering taxes isn't going to affect how a fully employed individual produces labor; they are trading their time for money. Lowering taxes on investment will promote more investments, since the money for those investments have already been taxed, and since the trade of investments is money-now for money-later, taxes have a much more significant influence over the extent to which someone will invest in a business. Someone fully invested in other things (non-stock commodities, etc) might move some of their investments into businesses instead.


I'm all for simplifying the tax structure but one kind of income should not be privileged over another.


At risk of bottoming out on the threaded replies, I'd be interested in talking through how that would work...

Let's say you wanted to give income from labor the same benefits as (negative) income from investments that lost money... How would you do that?

Say I earn a healthy $250K/year at my W-2 job. If I buy a large house with the proceeds from my job, have I incurred a loss? How about if I eat out at an expensive restaurant every night, spending my entire paycheck. Do I get to avoid taxes by keeping my lifestyle expensive?


Regarding a house it would be considered an asset, similar to buying stock.

That being said a corporatiom is not a person, and cannot eat a fancy dinner, so much of their profit can only become reinvested back into paying people who ultimately get taxed for eating fancy dinners.


Aren't similar expenses be used by businesses? Bought an expensive building or paid for all your sales people to take clients out for dinner and drinks.


Let's say you wanted to give income from labor the same benefits as (negative) income from investments that lost money... How would you do that?

I am not all that sure about carrying forward investment losses, and as you are aware some expenses are deductible while some are not. While eating a fancy restaurant is strictly optional, spending on medical of educational costs are quite different.

In general I think if someone investigates the edge cases first (eg looking at the second-order effect like carrying deductions on negative income) that's a sign of not wanting to look at the larger picture.


From your edge-case comment, it sounds like you'd prefer that losses from business income not roll over, rather than making rollovers accessible to individuals. I was approaching it the other way - trying to see if there was a reasonable way to credit individuals with a "P&L" view of their finances that could cross multiple years.

As you indicated above, so much of our personal expenses are "discretionary" in the sense that we could increase or lower them by choice. That's exactly the difference between business investment spending (required to produce the revenue that's taxed) vs. personal income/spending, which is based strongly on preferences. Hard to justify taxing frugal individuals more than lavish spenders just because they save a larger percentage of their income...


From a purely theoretical standpoint, I’m terribly curious what would happen if we incentivized spending like that. I’m sure it’d be terrible in the long run, but it’d also have definite macroeconomic stimulus effects.


There is a short scifi story from the 50s called the Midas Plague by Frederik Pohl which deals with this in a very silly way.

It's available through archive.org https://archive.org/stream/galaxymagazine-1954-04/Galaxy_195...


How about if we start with deducting my expenses for commuting to the office? $0.58 per mile would add up to about $2,900/year for my commute.


How is eating at an expensive restaurant a worse decision than say investing in Blue Apron? What are we trying to prove here?


During low-inflation years - no.

The lenient rates were introduced during high-inflation years. If somebody was pursuing a long-term project spanning over several years (let's say, building a new apartment complex), high punitive tax rates at liquidity time (let's say, 5 years down the road) combined with decreased buying would obliterate any real profitability.

The 12-month cut-off window, though, seems completely arbitrary.

The argument is kinda moot anyways, as capital gains are completely voluntary - one sells when they want to sell. If they don't want to sell, but need liquidity, they can access a bunch of asset-backed loans (HELOCs, PALs, cashout refinance, etc.) Ken Fisher in his book "Debunkery" (and I'm sure the data exists elsewhere) shows how total revenue figures collected by US government do not change over decades, regardless of the actual capital gains rates.


This is a very interesting point. It seems to me that we should tax capital gains at normal income rates, but only after adjusting the cost basis for inflation. It’s a little insane that we pay tax on the inflation adjustments for TIPs and other supposedly inflation neutral instruments, which all but guarantees that they lose money every year.


Yes, incorporating inflation sets the stage for increasing the capital-gains tax.

I am not sure what the counter-argument to that is, but one thing I can think of is increased complexity of a tax return for an average joe investor, who bought and sold a few funds in his portfolio. Opponents will also likely point that an official measure - CPI - can be manipulated for political purposes.


Hm yeah. I'd say that CPI is already manipulated for political purposes. Not sure if this would exacerbate it.

I think if you could separate out your income into business and personal expenses then I think you have a case for that kind of tax policy since you would be 'investing in yourself' but the current tax system covers a lot of that with deductions.


lol yes there is. If investment income is taxed at 50% (top federal bracket + top state income tax rate) then who in their right mind is going to risk their capital? lol, I know I absolutely wouldn't.


Then what would you do with all your capital? Sit on it? I highly doubt it. You'd either spend it (which is good) or invest it because 50% of more money is still more money.


That is not how marginal tax rates work. I'm also completely fine moving to an inflation based basis system if capital gets the same tax treatment as labor.


If investment income is taxed at 50%

Love it when people shoot down proposals I never made


Tax-loss harvesting is different than carrying losses from previous years forward. And in the case of tax-loss harvesting, the company wouldn't be realizing massive profits for that year because said profits would be offset by investment losses.


The average worker probably doesn't have any investments and is losing money by having more expenses than income.


The very fact that parent comment is getting downvoted shows what a bubble this (the HN) community is. If you think the average US working-class person is able to save, let alone have investments, I'd love to see some data to back that up.


>If the average worker has any stock or index fund investment

we don't


Business taxes and personal taxes are different. Businesses pay taxes on income, while individuals pay taxes on revenue.

The differences are significant enough that any sort of parallel like this does not hold a lot of value. Yes, it might make sense to disallow this for corporations, but the justification seems reasonable -- it's not a loophole that allows corporations to take home huge amounts of money without paying taxes, it just allows them to deal with time horizons longer than one year. As it is, a gain in the second half of the first month of the year can be offset by a loss in the first half of the first month of the year, just because of reporting frequency.


Individuals pay taxes on income as well.

Professional expenses are usually deductible, but most of W2 people (including myself) don't have too much to deduct.


I guess I should have said "businesses pay taxes on profit" instead of "income". Any expenditures that can be reasonably said to work towards the operation of the business are deductible. For individuals that is clearly not the case; things like paying for food to eat, rent, medical expenses (generally), or purchases of cars, etc., are explicitly excluded.


Individuals pay taxes on their own income.


From 1964 to 1986, individuals were allowed to average their income over five years. (Or was it four?)

Now only farmers and fishermen are allowed to do this, and some retirees who receive a lump sum retirement plan distribution.


What do you mean by "lose money"? There are plenty of kinds of losses that the average worker might incur that would offset their income tax. It could be a capital loss on an investment. It could be casualty losses from theft or a fire.


Casualty losses are tax deductible? That seems like it would be hard to verify if you got audited.


Yes, hurricanes are a big one as well. However this is un-reimbursed losses only. So if you have a large deductible, or you insurance subtracts depreciation from your payment. Then you can take a loss on just that part. But yes, need receipts and all that stuff to prove the loss.

100k house, 30k in damage, 20k insurance check. You can take 10k in losses.

*Also note, I am not a CPA, consult one. This is my current understand trying to deal with a town house I own in NC that was damaged this year.


I don't know about American taxes, but at least in Canada individuals can do this for capital gains / losses.

If you have investments that produce losses one year, you can carry those losses forward to cancel out capital gains in following years and reduce your tax payable.


In Germany, if you have less taxable income than tax deductions, you can carry that loss forward, too. It's a rare case, though, but it can save you several thousand when pursuing a second degree.


Very interesting. This feels like one small baby step away from a negative income tax scheme where you'd receive that difference immediately, rather than having to wait until you make more income in a later year.


This is how it works in America as well.


But the max per year is $3k, which is garbage.


$3k max to offset other income. There is no limit to offset capital gains.


Even when carried forward?


Individual workers are allowed to do this. In the form of deductions for various types of expenses such as medical and various other deductions.

But it means something different to make a wage and to make a profit. There are definitely loopholes to close in our busted tax system, I agree with that 100%. While we are at it we should eliminate all subsidies for various types of carved out businesses from oil to corn. But Characterizing loss calculations as a loophole I don't think is correct. If I'm not mistaken most corporate tax schemes in the rest of the world use similar concepts, it's a fairly basic accounting concept.


> But it means something different to make a wage and to make a profit.

Why? Other than "because our tax law says so"?


The reason it is like that is because the United States wants to encourage business activity in this country, so they make businesses have preferential tax systems.

but I agree with your overall statements - the rates and tax system for personal individuals is ridiculous and it gets worse the more income you make. For me personally, I intentionally took a demotion (and pay cut) because it isn't worth the sacrifices you have to do to get the higher salary. More stress, more responsibility, more extra unpaid overtime you have to work, more headaches etc. SIGNIFICANTLY MORE. Then what is the reward for all this extra headaches....you get 50% of the pay raise. So I said forget about it. The extra money isn't worth it if you only keep 50%.


An average worker has few job-related expenses.


Everything that is necessary for a human to function is job-related expenses for somebody who is working. We just choose to not recognize it as such.


Correct. That's what the standard deduction is for.


A lot of workers need a vehicle (or season pass on public transport), need a different location for their dwelling - both of these amount to a pretty hefty addition to a workers costs.


Commuting is deductible - up to a certain extent: https://www.theharrisongrouponline.com/services/section-132-...


In the UK it's determined that people commute not to get to work, but instead so they can live at a location that isn't near work.

I suspect that a change to this rule would cost the Exchequer a good £20b a year plus. As a home worker I wouldn't be impressed by that.


A huge amount of tax code complications and unfairness is due to the fact that companies get taxed on profit while people are taxed on income. People then try and have their spending done by their companies instead of personally. Mostly this is only possible for wealthy people.

We should really tax companies on income to eliminate this unfixable situation. Fiddling with the tax code will not work. Personally, I would like this problem solved by a national land tax and the permanent elimination of the income tax by constitutional amendment. People trading with each other is a win/win situation. We should encourage that, not tax it.


Average (or even above-average) W-2 worker - no, a self-employed individual or a single-person LLC - yes.


Because this rule is necessary for businesses to be able to invest on long term goals.


How does the average worker make a loss? People are not going to be working for negative wages. Only investors or business make loses.


Why is it so naturally assumed to be acceptable for a business to do it?

Because a business isn't a person. Taxing a business is taking real money away from payrolls, money that would get taxed again anyway once it was paid out.

Corporate income tax only makes sense when you look at it as a barrier to entry for competition in the marketplace. Big companies like Netflix know how to avoid taxes. Small companies don't. Thus corporate income taxes help to protect big companies from disruption by small ones.


The actions that most companies took after the corporate tax cuts were passed proved that taxing a business does not in fact take money away from payroll. When you give that money back to businesses, they either bank it, do share buybacks, increase their dividends, and occasionally re-invest in capital expenditures or give some employees a pitiful one-time bonus that in no way reflects the magnitude of the tax break they've been given.


> Taxing a business is taking real money away from payrolls

By that same logic, taxing personal income is akin to taking money away from the goods/services/investments that that person would've spent that foregone income.

There's nothing special about businesses that warrants them special privileges.


The special privilege is that a business is a group of people all of which get taxed individually.

Money goes into the business, gets taxed, and then goes to employees and taxed again or to shareholders as profits and taxed again.

Why tax twice?


Except a large portion of revenue does not go to workers, but to shareholders, who pay far less taxes then those who strain their backs in creating said revenue.


Lots of people love to throw around the word "shareholders" like it's a pejorative. The word seems to carry connotations of greedy old Uncle Scrooge, Uncle Pennybags, or some spoiled Saudi Prince. That's a highly distorted view.

Lots of "shareholders" are people's retirement funds, pensions, and the like. When those funds finally pay out, they get taxed as income just like for everybody else.


Even including stocks owned through retirement and pension funds, 84% of stocks are owned by the wealthiest 10% of Americans, and roughly half of all households have exactly $0 invested in the market.

Saying that Uncle Scrooge and his buddies own all the stocks is not much worse than implying that normal people own a significant share of the market through their retirement accounts.


Most stocks hold by Americans are owned by the top 10%. Unfortunately this libertarian trickle down fantasy of trickle down economics is not correct.


This is a stupid argument. Say we have 100 people in our economy, 90 of them $50k, 9 of them make $200k, and 1 person makes 1 million. Everyone invests 10% of their income in 'stoks' which cost $5/each.

Each of the 90 people invest $5k and have 1000 stoks.

Each of the 9 people invest $20k and have 4000 stoks.

The millionaire invests $100k and has 20,000 stoks.

The top 10% have 99.96% of the stoks.

It would be weird if the richest people didn't own most of the stocks. It doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem.


Except it's not 10%, or 1%. It's stats like "3 hedge fund makers make more than 140,000 teachers". The problem isn't disparity, it's the absolute mind boggling nature of it.


Yeah his example is comical in the sense that it kind of shows the nature of the problem.


So you don’t see the problem in your little example?


For companies like Netflix that don't pay dividends, none of it is going to shareholders.


All of a corporations actions are to create shareholder value. Retaining earnings and investment in growth does that too. If it wasn't you'd get some activist investors rallying for a takeover.

The underlying issue seems to be whether it is ethical for a business owner to make money.


Except for outliers like Apple, it is atypical for shareholders to get more of revenues than the workers.

Payroll, benefits, offices, etc are easily >50% of revenue in virtually all ventures (including diamond trade and definitely your favourite tech unicorn)


[citation needed]


No, The only portion of revenue that goes to shareholders would be that of profits, and Netflix doesn't pay dividends so none of that money goes to shareholders. It goes to capital re-ivestment, or the workers in the form of bonuses and the like. The sharholders in a company like netflix only make money when the companies shares become more highly valued (usually from that profit re-investment).

Also implicit in this statement I think, is the assumption that shareholders don't provide as much value to the business, or perhaps the economy writ large. Arguably the investors at least initially play a more crucial role than any employee no mater how back-breaking their work because without starting capital most businesses don't even get started in the first place. But in general all aspects of the business contribute to success, Shareholders, employees, and executive. I don't think moralizing one class over another is useful to this sort of conversation.


Taxing a business is taking real money away from payrolls

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think payroll expenses are not a part of profit, so no double taxation here.


>Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think payroll expenses are not a part of profit, so no double taxation here.

The point is that any money that exits a corporation gets taxed again somewhere.

So if a company does really well one year and makes a profit, it gets taxed on that profit even if it keeps it in the bank. Then they use that remaining profit to pay payroll next year and then employees or owners get taxed again.


I don't think that's quite how that works.

But your point on double-taxation is certainly valid in some contexts.


Some jurisdictions (Australia) have input credits that offset tax already paid on dividends. If a company has paid 30% tax on a profit and distributes dividends to shareholders, the individual pays tax on it at their marginal tax rate less the tax already paid by the company (fully franked dividend).

Franking credits minimise the double taxation issue in these instances.


Will never happen in the US: too reasonable.


It is exactly how it works. Apple has been taxed on the profits that make up their giant cash balance. Once that is paid out to investors through dividends or to employees through payrolls, it will get taxed again.


You're right about dividends, but payroll comes out before profit calculations.


Sales tax is a double-tax. So what?


Double taxation is unethical.


Double taxation is generally a bad idea. What you think is double taxation is not.

Double taxation is the concept where a dollar could, in theory, be taxed at over 100% from the aggregation of taxes owed on it. There are to my knowledge only two real examples of double taxation in America. The first happens due to the new cap on SALT deductions. The second is with regards to FICA taxes.


You are correct. Payroll is part of expenses.

Oversimplified:

Profit = $Revenue - $Expenses

Tax = $profit % $Tax_rate


Citizens United v FEC disagrees with you.


So many replies to your comment, but no one seems to be able to answer the question. Articles like these manufacture outrage with no detail whatsoever on why the company paid no income taxes.


I tried to dig out an answer, but the site was down and so was the Google cache!


Agreed. Using Apple as example.

From my observation, most people on the internet doesn't seems to care. There was an argument about Apple paying little tax in US. I said Apple is the largest tax payer in US and paid 20%+, then the topic changed to he is paying ~40%, why is Apple paying 20% only?

There is Apple tax in France, there are even some saying Apple should pay tax in France, then paid Tax in Ireland, and pay Tax in US.

There are some saying how can Apple not paying any VAT in France and UK? ( Have they been watching too much Fox News ? )

I mean seriously, unless your whole life have been working on any non business side of things, if any of the job involves calculating profits and sales would know none of these makes any sense. And yet we are in a world with people demanding company should pay more. Which is fair point, but what they are suggesting is ridiculous.

I know many are concern about the lack of money for government spending, but as a counter point, do they realise how much money and inefficiency government have wasted in their bureaucracy, and their out of touch project which more than often leads to failure with sums that is unrealistic by any standards?


Do losses actually carry forward in full like you're describing? I was under the impression there was an annual limit in the amount you can deduct. For an individual, that limit is $3k.


No, for individuals the limit on losses that you can deduct is the amount of your gains, plus $3k. If the entirety of your income comes from investments, you could certainly end up paying no tax if your capital losses cancel out your capital gains, regardless of the magnitude of each. The $3k you can deduct past that is a nice bonus.

And even for individuals, losses over that $3k can be carried forward indefinitely to future years.


There are losses that individuals can't take, but can carry forward due to the amount of income they make, notably real estate investments when the individual is not a real estate professional. Think about how messed up that is, DJT and his ilk can deduct and deprecate all the real estate that they own and operate and continually carry forward excesses, but I as an individual have to carry forward the loss until my income drops to some suitable level. I have no problem with carry forwards, but if you are going to limit the individual to the amount they can deduct in a year, that should apply to business as well.

It's also possible to pay no taxes if you derive all of your income from investments every year as long as you don't exceed the allowed limit since we have a marginal capital gains structure that combos with our marginal income tax structure.


$3,000 is the deduction limit against personal income. Deduction against capital gains is limitless.


I would be great with corporations deducting all the business losses they wish if only I had similar freedom deducting all of my business losses rather than an elaborate tax code that forces me to resort to tricks like tax-loss harvesting.

Or TLDR: don't take away rights like this from corporations, give those same rights to individuals.


[flagged]


No, it's the opposite. It's saying, "get the facts first", and I gave a few examples (some positive and some negative), at a high level of abstraction, of what would and wouldn't be objectionable.

I completely agree that you shouldn't need to know the whole tax code to say, "deducting arbitrary figures for payments to a foreign subsidiary shouldn't be allowed and is shady". But "profits didn't cancel out recent losses, thus no taxable income" is not shady.

All I'm saying is, you can't even have the discussion until you know what case you're talking about. Is that really controversial? Did it really sound like I was saying this is too complicated to understand? Is there a better way I could have said it?


It is really contreversial to have a defensive tone when it comes to corporate taxes. Tell me a year you made money and paid 0 taxes. Or anyone? Why cant we have a sceptical approach when the topic in question is large corps?


Most of people here do not rely 100% on investment income, I assume, thus such a situation would be impossible for them, since labor income tax does not allow to deduct this much. But I have successfully lowered my taxes at occasion where I incurred some substantial investment losses (the startup I owned stock in folded). It didn't make my tax to zero (and thank God, because this would mean I've lost as much as I make, I don't want this kind of losses) but it did reduce my taxes.

> Why cant we have a sceptical approach when the topic in question is large corps?

Sure we can, in fact we must. But skeptical approach means get the facts, verify them, then make decision. Not read the outline, feel outraged, reject any reasonable explanation because we must be skeptical about large corps. Having losses carried over from previous years is nothing wrong, and one part of being skeptical is being able to recognize there's no "there" there, and move on.


GP IS skeptical, by asking that the facts be made clear. The non-skeptical people are the ones implying "this MUST be wrong just because".


I paid Uncle Sam zero income tax in 2015 despite getting a typical software engineer income.


> The average joe doesn't need to grok the whole tax code to know it's wrong when one of the most high profile profitable companies doesn't pay any income tax.

The problem is that this is false. I mean, it is true on very short term - but then you can as well be outraged about Netflix not paying taxes this Monday, and ignore the fact that they paid tax on Thursday. If you read the article and try to figure out what it actually says, you'll find out that they do pay taxes (albeit, claimed that at lower rate - 13.6% - no idea why, or how it was calculated, based on what, so one can't verify it) even if they didn't pay income taxes (they probably still pay a lot of other taxes) in one particular period of time. If the average joe can't grok this, it's ok, but then it's probably premature for the average joe to have an opinion on the tax policy. Not that this ever stopped anybody...

> That indicates the system is fucked.

No it does not. It indicates that a clickbait article successfully triggered you into an outrage fit without informing you or enhancing your knowledge.

> There isn't a technicality in the universe that will indicate that somehow our perception is wrong.

If you actually read the article, you'll easily find out why your perception is wrong. It plainly says that Netflix does pay taxes, if you bother to look beyond one single year. Given how many corporations are in the US, and how uneven business cycle and investment/profit undulations are, there always would be cases where some corporation lost a ton last year, and then made some profit this year, but this profit is offset with last year's loss, so they pay little or no taxes in single year. You can always find such examples and blow an outrage out of it. But if you bother to understand it, then you'd see there's nothing to be outraged about - if the profits over longer term are higher than losses over the same term, it will be taxed. Maybe not this year but next - who cares.


> If, as in the comment, they were carrying over losses, then there's nothing really objectionable

I find that objectionable.


Why?

Profits should follow arbitrary calendar years?


Because private citizens aren’t given the same affordances. The double standard is objectionable.


They can't treat their living expenses exceeding income as deductions, no.

But if:

* their sole proprietorship loses money in one year, it can be carried forward to offset taxes the next year

* they have net losses in investments, those can be carried-over to offset gains in other years

* any LLCs in which they are members have allocated losses, those can be carried-over against profits in later years

These are the ways a private individual engages in economic activity that are analogous to what a C-Corp does, and for these, the standard is essentially the same.


All true, the objection comes from the limits placed on individuals that don't apply to businesses. Businesses are allowed to "use up" all of their losses, both current year and carried forward, in a single year. Individuals are forced to arbitrarily carry forward losses when they still had income/cap gains that could have been deducted against.


Interestingly ( to me) I will be deducting losses specifically from Netflix this tax season and will have carryover in 2020.

There are a handful of available carryovers and the concept of NOL is very similar to a private citizen as this discussed concern is to a business.

Innovation and front heavy spending is very much improved do to this issue. It is a sound concept.


Yes they can. Carry-forward losses exist with capital gains losses as well as net operating losses from self-employment.


The answer is to outlaw lobbyists, it would fix a lot of problems. That, and enact term limits for Congress. That will fix even more.


> The answer is to outlaw lobbyists, it would fix a lot of problems. That, and enact term limits for Congress. That will fix even more.

When you think there are simple answers to big problems it's generally because you don't actually understand the problem.

How would you outlaw lobbyists? Setting aside the fact that it would be unconstitutional, do you think it should be illegal for you to air your grievances to elected officials? That seems to fly directly in the face of democracy. Or should it only be that businesses aren't allowed to lobby? What about a small business that is being unfairly impacted by regulations, or being run out of business by a large company abusing a loophole in the law? Seems like them not having a voice in government would be a path to oligopoly or monopoly. If that's ok, where's the line in which business is allowed to lobby, and how do you keep a large business from simply hiring a small business to lobby on their behalf?


Aside from the fact that many countries have ways of limiting lobbyist influence through law, a simple but dramatic way would be to say:

0. Lobbying is a right, but one that can only be exercised by individual citizens, not corporations.

1. Anyone who wishes to "lobby" congressional candidates or congresspersons must register their financial interests

2. Make it illegal to directly accept money for lobbying services (akin to prostitution)

Sure, it wouldn't make lobbying impossible - but it would make it much harder.


> 1. Anyone who wishes to "lobby" congressional candidates or congresspersons must register their financial interests

Under the terms of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, anyone who spends 20% or more of their work time lobbying the Federal government already has to register themselves, and disclose both the clients they lobby on behalf of and any expenses they incur as part of their lobbying activities. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying_Disclosure_Act_of_199... for more information.)

Many states also have similar laws in place regarding lobbying of state officials, though obviously the details will vary depending on what state you're in.


> 0. Lobbying is a right, but one that can only be exercised by individual citizens, not corporations.

So charities and environmental groups can't lobby? Lobbying for them means designating a representative. How is that any different from what corporations are doing? They just happen to have deeper pockets.

Furthermore, the fact that they have deep pockets is actually important. It means they reflect an important aspect of the economy, so ignoring their interests could also have detrimental economic effects.

It's not nearly as simple as you're portraying.


> Furthermore, the fact that they have deep pockets is actually important. It means they reflect an important aspect of the economy, so ignoring their interests could also have detrimental economic effects.

This embeds the idea that someone making more money has a right to a larger voice than someone that doesn't. - In my "if the world were simple" dreams I'd say something like "every voter can spend $200 - any lobbying group or corp can spend that $200 IN THEIR NAME, but then no one else, including that voter, can. Corps/groups can still raise money and represent their members (who don't have to each spend that money) but it doesn't make a small group of wealthy voters look like a big group of voters. The groups/corps would have to make sure they represented the views of their members, or those members would start revoking their permissions."

Of course, the world isn't that simple, but that sums up my views on money in politics.


> This embeds the idea that someone making more money has a right to a larger voice than someone that doesn't

I don't see how. I just said their opinion shouldn't be ignored, which is what the OP was suggesting by banning corporations which represent large groups of shareholders and employees.


Corporations do not represent employees.


Except they do. Politicians know that making business more difficult will affect employment.

>This embeds the idea that someone making more money has a right to a larger voice than someone that doesn't.

No, it's a signal that you might be proposing an economically destructive policy. You're not required to listen to lobbyists or take their suggestions.


>So charities and environmental groups can't lobby?

They could create form letters for their members to email their representatives.

Some charities I belong to operate this way.

Obviously Comcast could do this too but I don't think they'd be successful getting real people to lobby on their behalf.

>Furthermore, the fact that they have deep pockets is actually important. It means they reflect an important aspect of the economy, so ignoring their interests could also have detrimental economic effects.

The fact that they have deep pockets means that they can broadcast their message more easily so they have an inbuilt advantage. There's no reason not to compensate for that.


> Obviously Comcast could do this too but I don't think they'd be successful getting real people to lobby on their behalf.

You might be surprised; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing for the way it's usually done.


I'm sure they'd try. Astroturfing is already illegal and not all that difficult to uncover though.


>So charities and environmental groups can't lobby?

Incase you didn’t know, all tax-exempt charitable organisations are already severely limited in how they’re allowed to engage in politics. They’re never allowed to endorse candidates, or directly or indirectly campaign for them.


So a Union could not lobby then in your world.


No, but the union could ask their members to lobby on behalf of themselves toward a common goal. As long as that lobbying isn't a requirement for membership or influence in the org, I see no problem with that.


> 0. Lobbying is a right, but one that can only be exercised by individual citizens, not corporations.

A "corporation" isn't a thing that exists in the world. They don't have mouths, and can't speak, so it makes no sense to outlaw their ability to use the mouth that they don't have.

There are people in the world. As well as groups of people.

A corporation is merely the pural of person. Each person in that corporation, whether employee, or owner, should have the same speech rights as any other individual.


This argument is facile. There's an obvious and clear difference between a person representing their own interests and a person paid by a corporation specifically to advance its interests.


At least the agent representing the corporation knows who its master is. The interests are aligned.

Unlike with our our elected representatives. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal%E2%80%93agent_proble...)


It's not a difference which is easy to legislate without unintended consequences (people's own interests frequently overlap with those of their employer, and most people with informed opinions on the implications of a policy are in employed in areas not unlinked to that policy).

What is facile is to argue that a law which simply bans corporations from hiring people describing themselves as lobbyists or government relations professionals will have any real world effect, or to pretend that there are no possible downsides from legislation which might prevent organisations like the EFF from existing or ensure that healthcare professionals are unable to make representations about healthcare to politicians.


It would be entirely possible to write campaign finance laws so that organizations like the EFF can only be funded by private donations and not by corporations, if they want to make campaign contributions or run "issue" advertising. I don't really see what unintended consequences you're referring to. The problem with getting corporate money out of politics is that the people getting it wouldn't like that, not that the law would be difficult to craft in a fair way.

Just outlaw legislation written by lobbyists. If Congressmen have to do the actual work of writing, it would end up being simpler than the specially crafted 500pg bills nobody reads. It isn't too much to ask elected officials to do the work they signed up for.


Something that stuck with me from law school was that frequently when students raised the point that a law could be written far more simply, the professor would walk through the language they suggested and basically always the simplest formulation was absolutely shot through with loopholes, and as you close the obvious loopholes one by one, you end up with language that looks just like the statute as written, or you end up with a law that doesn’t accomplish the same thing.


What you are saying is quite interesting: basically if lawmakers need to have the skill of writing laws, then it means that they must be very educated in law matters. Lawyers, basically, which makes a lot of sense. But on the other hand if you restrict congressmanship (is that a word?) to such a small and biased sample of the population, how are they supposed to understand the actual problems of the population at large?

It is the very problem of representative democracy: elected officials need to form an elite of superior intelligence and ability to comprehend the world, yet at the same time be firmly grounded in the reality of everyday people to understand their problems and represent them...


>elected officials need to form an elite of superior intelligence and ability to comprehend the world

This is much less of a problem if you can hold down scope-creep on the role and responsibilities of government.


Would it really be unconstitutional? The right of petition cannot abrogated, but surely one can outlaw the exchange of political favors for money or other forms of compensations.

Yes, actually showing that political favors were exchanged for money is tricky, but still, it's better than nothing and it changes the whole discussion from "it's the system" to "who's doing something bad and hiding it?".


> outlaw the exchange of political favors for money or other forms of compensations

?

This is already illegal. It's generally termed "corruption".


I guess you could say lobbying legalizes a portion of what is understood as corruption. (Not everything, obviously.) Under the guise of "defending special interests", or something similar.

You shouldn't be allowed to finance people whose decision you stand to profit from.

I guess the only "simple" way to solve this is to outlaw the private financing of politicians and their campaign. It should all be public money. Not that easy to operationalize (almost nothing of interest is), but feasible, desirable and fair I reckon.


>it should be illegal for you to air your grievances to elected officials?

Doing it for money - yes, that should be illegal.


You mean acting as a paid representative on someone else's behalf to stand before a government official? Isn't that what lawyers do?


Isn't that what politicians do?


It was initially where I was going to go with this, but as I thought through the argument the recursion caused a stack overflow in my brain.


What are you trying to say with that?


I'm saying that "airing grievances" "for money" has prior art. I'm a busy person, and the opinion stated says that it should be illegal for me to hire a person to represent my views before, say, a congressperson. Or it should be illegal to hire a person more eloquent than myself to state my case; a professional, as it were. We hire lawyers because navigating the law is difficult. Should we not also be allowed to hire professionals as we take part in the making of those same laws?


In small claims court you can't be represented by a lawyer for example. Both - being represented and representing - aren't constitutional rights. So it is up to society whether to allow or prohibit it in various cases.


I still fail to see your point. A lobbyist still has a fundamentally different job than a lawyer, and they both use fundamentally different tactics to reach fundamentally different goals.


They don't have fundamentally different jobs. They are there to represent their clients' interests and advocate for them.


You can say the same about a debt collector. Thats just too broad of a statement to do anything with it.


[flagged]


> Or it's pretty obvious and some people are intentionally dense.

It doesn't seem at all obvious to me how you would outlaw lobbying - in general or by specific types of companies. Do you think I'm being intentionally dense?

Maybe most large problems aren't actually trivial, and the reason they don't get solved by message board suggestions is because those suggestions wouldn't work. Just a thought.

If you disagree, why don't you walk me through your proposal in a less handwavey manner. The devil is in the details - surely you can agree that there are a variety of challenges at each step of the way?


> If you disagree, why don't you walk me through your proposal in a less handwavey manner

You could say companies aren't allowed to spend money to intentionally target or influence elected representatives.

Sure it's hardly defined at all, and maybe I spent 30 seconds on it. But if a jury of my peers unanimously think an exec was trying to influence a representative, then why not levy a huge fine? As far as the legality, is there anything interstate commerce doesn't encompass?


> When you think there are simple answers to big problems it's generally because you don't actually understand the problem.

Funny. Most complex problems have simple solutions. It takes lot more effort to do it, but the simple solutions tend to stick around the longest. This is based on 10 years of work exp in top tech companies :-)

The only place when simple solutions don't work is when people have other vested interests.


> Most complex problems have simple solutions

This trope is both untrue and tired, as most cookie-cutter generalities are.


For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.


> unconstitutional

God forbid we think outside the realm of what the Founding Fathers wrote down.

> fly directly in the face of democracy

Except the U.S. has long been classified as a flawed democracy.

The problems you list can "simply" be solved with a comission akin to the FTC. A small business can complain to said comission which would solve the matter.


Think outside it all you wish - you will be unpleasantly surprised when your idea gets in front of courts who are bound to honor it.

The US isn't a "flawed democracy", it's intentionally not a democracy.


The US is a democracy. It's not a direct democracy. it's flawed because the system is outdated and broken.

It was a system designed to consolidate power among white landowners and to be extremely difficult to change. It's not a surprise it's got issues.


The US is a Representative Republic, which differs from a democracy in several significant ways.

It was designed to be difficult to change because democracies always fail when the majority decides the rule of law is no longer important.


A democracy and a republican are not mutually exclusive. The US is a democracy.


A representative republic is the system we have in the US, which is by definition not a democracy. They're two very different concepts, and they are mutually exclusive.

This is basic civics. It's taught, or I hope it's still taught, in grade school. It's not controversial, it's not surprising, it's fact.


Not siding one way or the other, that will definitely limit the amount of expertise that comes with a Congressman/Congresswoman.

Think about it, it takes at least six months for us to learn our jobs, they have to learn about hundreds of things ongoing in the government before they can make informed decisions. You then even rely more on lobbyists (or "experts") who at least generally know what they are talking about.

Point being, I think this issue is a hell of a lot more complex than it seems.


Lobbyist being experts is something I've never heard before. They are salesmen, do you want to get your nutrient information from a McDonald's commercial? It may save you time but isn't really helpful.


The EFF is at least partially a lobbying group, do you think they're salesmen? Lobbying is just people talking to the government.


Though there is a distinction between corporate lobbying and e.g. the EFF: corporations lobby for their own interests, the EFF does it for everyone. Besides that, if company lobbying did not exist, the EFF wouldnt exist because there would be no one to work against. The EFF was specificly founded to defend the peoples interests against corporations.


You need to be more pedantic. The EFF is a 501(c)(3) organization, and that's a type of corporation.

If you want to outlaw lobbying by for-profit corporations, then they'll just create subsidiary lobbying organizations. The NRA is a 501(c)(4), which is also a tax exempt non-profit designation, and realistically it serves primarily as a lobbying group for gun manufacturers.


I'd say that's selling the NRA short. I have a few friends that are NRA members, they're as focused on gun rights as the corporations are.


That's a fair point. Though while they may not be exclusively a lobbying front for gun manufacturers, I think it's still fair to say they serve that purpose.


If you ignore the highly politicized lobbyists, you'll find that expertise is one of the main things lobbyists provide to politicians.

"We know you don't have time to dig deep. Here is a summary of the research, and our recommendations based on it."

Edit: I also once had a fairly cynical view of lobbyists. But then some people I know went to work for lobby groups after they graduated. When I looked into the types of lobby groups they went to, they were fairly impressive. Things like advocating for homeless, advocating for people without health care, etc.


The EFF, trade unions, the aclu, the southern poverty law center, all of these are experts and all of them lobby policymakers.


And all of them can still be easily outspend by corporate lobbying.


> Lobbyist being experts is something I've never heard before.

Lobbyists often are, and, whether or not they themselves are, are almost invariably supported by, domain experts.

> They are salesmen

Yeah, but they are salesmen who do the public policy equivalent of technical sales, and it's a field where selectivity is high because you are selling to a very small number of very high value customers.


Lobbyists will bring in the "expert" with necessary credentials who can "advice" on the finer points of legislation, give talking points etc. They might not directly project expertise


I am not sure they have the required expertise anyway, most of the elected politicians have zero understanding of tech for example, many of them never even used email, the woeful questioning of zukerberg showed how clueless they are.

Career bureaucrats are the ones who run many of hundred things that run the government. Politicians need to provide direction and reflect the will of the people. Hardly need to career politicians for that. Younger representation is critical to make sure the voice of youth is being heard.

Do you think any politician understands the needs of the millennial generation ? Any long term policy like say education enacted now is going to impact the future generations more than anyone else.


It's not like we're blindly considering something that has never been tried. California enacted term limits, and there were studies[1] as to the effect it had. Information as to some aspects of it is but a click or search away. Here's some highlights of the summary I linked to:

In both houses, committees now screen out fewer bills assigned to them and are more likely to see their work rewritten at later stages. The practice of“hijacking” Assembly bills—gutting their contents and amending them thoroughly in the Senate—has increased sharply. As a body, the Legislature is less likely to alter theGovernor’s Budget, and its own budget process neither encourages fiscal discipline nor links legislators’ requests to overall spending goals. In addition, legislative oversight of the executive branch has declined significantly.

...legislators are learning more quickly than their precursors, but that frequent changes in the membership and leadership of legislative committees, especially in the Assembly, diminish their expertise in many important policy areas. Many committees lack the experience to weed out bad bills and to ensure that agencies are acting efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.

That said, overall the summary finds that the effects of term limits were neither as good as proponents hoped or as bad as detractors feared.

1: "How Have Term Limits Affected the California Legislature?" https://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/rb/RB_1104BCRB.pdf


I think it is, like most problems. I tend to favor the idea of term limits but while discussing this with a friend who used to work in politics, he made a good point I thought. His experience is that the staff change is the real problem in a political change. The ramp up time for a new staff is very long, the politician would not be able to get much done until the staff figures everything out, then it would be time to change again depending on the limit.


Which is why it's crazy to me that you wouldn't want to keep your predecessor's staff around.


Totally agree. It should not be about which party your staff comes from.


I've often thought each section of legislation should have a byline that lists every person who had a hand in drafting it since most legislation is now written by lobbyists and not the actual legislators.

For example, H.R. 5323, Derivatives Fairness Act drafted on behalf of CitiGroup.


2 terms in the Senate is 12 years. 4 terms in the House is 8 years. There will be plenty of knowledge transfer between junior and senior members in that time.


I would argue the amount of expertise will go up with term limits: people who still have fresh memories of living outside the government bubble can actually make a lot of difference.

Moreover, it works the other way round as well. If, say, a teacher returns back to school after a term in state senate, the school will get access to invaluable wealth of knowledge of government internals.


If the lobbyists are merely providing a service to politicians, then why are they paying politicians instead of politicians paying them?


It's sales. You spend money wining, dining or bribing a client and hope it pays off later.


I would argue that congresspeople are not experts in general in most (all in some cases?) domains, and make generally totally uninformed decisions that are designed to pander to a political base.

And lobbyists aren't experts either, they're simply paid to bribe people to get a result.


> And lobbyists aren't experts either, they're simply paid to bribe people to get a result.

This implies that the EFF does not have expertise in privacy and free speech. Would you agree with that?


You're implying that EFF is typical of lobbyists. That's an untenable position.

EFF is probably the antithesis of most lobbyists, certainly the ones being discussed here.


> that will definitely limit the amount of expertise that comes with a Congressman/Congresswoman.

The expertise they have is in glad-handing, personally enriching themselves, and playing political games. They're certainly not subject matter experts in anything outside that realm. Term limits don't have to mean that we're losing out on this valuable "expertise", it could be something as simple as "retire at 65", you know, like everyone else in every other industry aspires to do.


==They're certainly not subject matter experts in anything outside that realm.==

Except many of them clearly are. Bill Foster worked as a particle physicist at Fermilab for 22 years [1]. Sean Casten started and sold an energy recycling company called Recycled Energy Development [2]. Those are two examples just from suburban Chicago. Try not to let political cynicism cloud reality.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Foster_(politician) [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Casten


> Except many of them clearly are.

How many? And I think it's particularly telling that the folks you managed to find are newbies to the political arena and not career politicians, a class of individuals that can only exist thanks to the absence of term limits. Also telling is that in Foster's case, his expertise is completely useless in a political context. Let me know when he gets around to drafting a major particle physics bill.


==How many?==

I'm not sure, I provided two examples to prove your assertion wrong. Surely, you can find more if you look.

== And I think it's particularly telling that the folks you managed to find are newbies to the political arena and not career politicians==

Can you name a career field where experience is considered a bad thing? Does your career have term limits, would people be more effective at it if they did? The free market seems to pay specialists more than generalists, due to higher perceived value.

Politics is the only place I have ever heard this argument. Foster was first elected in 2008, so he's hardly a "newbie".

==Also telling is that in Foster's case, his expertise is completely useless in a political context. Let me know when he gets around to drafting a major particle physics bill.==

Huh? The House holds the purse strings and decides funding on things like the Energy Department, which funds Fermilab, or NASA. I think he might have something to add in that arena.


You made a claim that lobbyists are not subject matter experts. Another commenter refuted that claim with counterexamples. Now you are moving the goalposts and demanding quantifiable data about how many lobbyists have expertise in some domain.

I think it's time for you to counter by defending your thesis, that lobbyists generally don't have domain expertise, instead of demanding increasingly more evidence.


The world is a crazy complex place. Like them or not, lobbyists are useful for helping lawmakers understand the implications of laws, and eliminating lobbyists (setting aside the impracticality of such a task) and imposing term limits (thus reducing the level of institutional knowledge in Congress) would mean that lawmakers would often be flying completely blind.


There is of course a middle ground between no terms limits and super short term limits. The longest serving member of congress made it over 59 years - I think most everyone would agree that's excessive.


So let them get bought off instead? I refuse to believe that the only two options are widespread graft or poor ignorant lawmakers who have no other way of obtaining information.


We could also elect people with integrity, as unlikely as that seems in our current environment.

My point is that hard problems rarely have simple solutions, as much as populist politicians might like to pretend otherwise. “Ban lobbyists” is a great soundbite but would introduce all sorts of negative consequences (like driving them underground and introducing more potential for corruption).


> That, and enact term limits for Congress. That will fix even more.

Do you have a citation for this? Because term limits would mean that elected officials need to plan for what to do after they hit their limit. That could make them even more beholden to corporate lobbyists, who have the resources to offer termed-out lawmakers jobs or other benefits after they leave office.


We have term limits in my state.

One unintended consequence in my district is that we have two guys who trade seats back and forth between state senate and state house. They're totally interchangeable and neither one ever talks to their constituents (well, the ones who don't write big checks anyhow)


The First Amendment protects the right to petition the government. Outlawing lobbying would require a significant campaign to amend the Constitution.


Lobbying would be toothless without campaign contributions. Money on the table is the only reason why lobbyists get meetings and average citizens get a full voicemail inbox and templated auto-response.


I don't know how pedantic you're intending to be here; what do you consider a "campaign contribution". If you use the traditional definition of a "campaign contribution", that is, money given to the candidate to be spent on election campaigns, then this is completely false; lobbyists cannot give any more money to campaigns than regular people can.

The power of large lobbies is more closely related to the fact that they represent a large number of constituents who donate and vote (approximately) as a block.


I don't follow. Lobbying is paid for by corporations and organizations. The financial conflicts of interests that this poses on legislators is separate from campaign contributions. For instance, a legislator cannot use the latter for anything but campaign expenses [0]. But a legislator, after leaving office, can go to work for a friendly corporation (though there are laws requiring a "cooling off" period before they can directly lobby Congress).

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mike-pence-used-camp...


When The Young Turks spent millions of dollars in air time endorsing Hillary, was that a campaign contribution?


No, for the same reason that astroturfing online about sending the troops into south side Chicago isn't a campaign contribution; it's not exchanging money for influence.

With your example, Hillary Clinton would be a billionaire for doing that inane dance on Ellen.


I'd love it if we outlawed lobbyists, but that'll never happen. It's a clear-cut 1st Amendment issue.

Imagine, for example, that all the fast-food workers unionized and wanted to get the minimum wage raised.

How would they do that when most live outside DC and have to work 1-2 shifts per day to keep their jobs?

They hire professionals -- lobbyists.

Unfortunately any unregulated system benefits the powerful, and we have the heavily abused lobbying system of today.


Or we could elect people who can't be bought by lobbyists because they have principles. I was taught in poli-sci classes that the single biggest issue wasn't so much the principles of law makers as it was their capabilities and their staff. Most law-makers are incapable of doing the (sometimes overwhelming amount of) work, and rely on hiring professionals to work as a team to review law and then tell the law-makers how to vote. If none of them are savvy about lobbyists, they can easily be fooled by groups that come to them to push an agenda. We need smart congresspeople who can do the work and also can hire a competent and principled staff.


> Or we could elect people who can't be bought by lobbyists because they have principles.

Yeah except they all say they can't be bought and paid for. And they probably believe it for a while. Decades in an environment where graft runs rampant will change a person though.


> Or we could elect people who can't be bought by lobbyists because they have principles

Don't see how idealism and fantasies of heroes is going to make our government better. How about we stop expecting mythical people to exist and come save us from the bad guys.


Mythical people are the only ones who have made systemic change. They overcame all of the people who said, "Get real, that'll never happen."


Outlawing lobbyists will be as successful as outlawing drugs to fight drug problems.


Better yet - campaign finance reform: https://www.amazon.com/Republic-Lost-Version-Lawrence-Lessig...

I think there are good people that want to serve, but they have to play the money game to survive (costs millions/billions to get elected?? What?!). Which eventually corrupts them ...

Term limits might be nice too.


In theory lobbyists perform a public good: they create legislation that someone wants. The problem is that we only have them for groups that have the money to pay lobbyists, so the only lobbyist-originated bills that cross legislators' desks are the ones representing a narrow set of interests.

So rather than outlaw lobbyists, one alternative would be to balance this out by hiring public lobbyists. They would craft the legislation on behalf of the state.

The analogy I'm thinking of is that this would work in much the same way that we hire public prosecutors to represent the public interests in the courts by prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the state. Otherwise the only criminal cases would be if someone hired a private prosecutor, as it was until the 18th century.

Currently the bill-writing is the responsibility of legislators and parties. This would make it a non-political, non-partisan role in the bureaucracy.


Don't outlaw lobbyists, outlaw accepting handouts of any form during, after or shortly before being in the senate or congress. They are already compensated for this by getting a generous retirement package.


> That, and enact term limits for Congress. That will fix even more.

Doubtful. Then they are incentivized to secure a lucrative position after their term. Guess who can provide lucrative jobs for some consideration?


The intent here is good, but I don't think you can do that? Can you define "lobbying" in a way that encompasses all (or at least most) of the bad activity but doesn't encompass acceptable activity?

What even is lobbying? A broad definition would include most any communication with a policymaker, a narrow one would exclude lots of activity that is obviously meant to influence policy.

If you want to reduce the influence that moneyed interests have over politics there's only one answer: take their money away.


> The answer is to outlaw lobbyists, it would fix a lot of problems. T

So, no one is allowed to write their senators anymore? People can't request to meet with their elected representatives? Subject matter experts aren't allowed to express their opinions within earshot of a member of congress?

Lobbying is just people with a shared interest expressing their views to elected representatives.

Now, the concept has gotten a bit overly... complex, but outlawing lobbying all together would be a huge infringement on freedom of speech.


I’ve heard of an interesting argument against term limits and that it would strengthen political parties as they try to keep the pipeline of successors full. I do not know if there is any research to back it but the intuition makes sense at least and may be testable. We saw regulatory capture as a concept with almost no evidence until they looked at hockey referees and the calls they make over their careers, so something comparable would be worth looking at for term limits.


This happened in California, and now every state senator sees the State Senate as a rotating door and a launchpad for the next career. Get in, introduce some populist bill with your name attached to it, disregard any long-term consequences, get positive press headlines, use the momentum to get hired for the next job.


Around half of Americans reliably vote for candidates that support lower taxes for businesses. Add in term limits, and they'll just vote for a different candidate that supports lower taxes for businesses.


> What is the common person, or collection of persons, supposed to do when they are against that kind of force?

Vote.

All sorts of interests lobby, all the time. These include consumer-focused interest groups, as well as corporations. But, at the end of the day, politicians gain (and keep) office based on the votes of their constituents. These politicians are (generally) not going to vote on bills that they think might get them kicked out of office.


I've voted in every election I since I turned 18 and nothing seems to have been done about this and many other things. But issues that megacorps care about happen right away.

Voting isn't a real solution to unchecked corporate lobbying.


The solution is reversing Citizen's United, when the Supreme Court held 5-4 that campaign contributions represented "freedom of speech" and could not be limited. In a literal sense, Citizen's United enshrined the idea that your voice (and vote) are proportional to the amount of money you can bring to bear.

One of the lessons I've taken from this case and others related to gerrymandering and voter suppression, for instance, is how deeply the integrity our democracy depends on tactical execution of the broader ideals at stake. It's our ability to handle issues at the margin that will determine whether the whole thing works or falls apart.


Citizen's United affirmed that an individual's rights to make political speech isn't lost when that individual forms a corporation for the sole purpose of amplifying that speech.

It's equivalent (this isn't an analogy, it's literally equivalent) to allowing a person to spend money to buy a megaphone to make their speech literally louder than everyone else's. Not everyone can afford a megaphone.


> I've voted in every election I since I turned 18 and nothing seems to have been done about this and many other things.

It is also possible that the majority doesn't feel (read: vote) the same way about these issues as you. Would that mean that the system is flawed?


Results clearly indicate that isn't the case. EG the 2000 and 2016 elections.

The level of cognitive dissonance the public has about politics is the most disheartening part of the whole burning shit show. Remember America; It's your own fault if he beats you, you made him do it.


How do those two elections show that? Because of the popular vote in the presidential elections? Don't forget that our representatives (the people who actually are responsible for legislation) are voted in directly. No electoral college for them.


I suggest it's not as simple as just saying "vote" given the massive disparity in funding capabilities between the average citizen and the average Fortune 500 company. Money is powerful and greatly influences elections. Now due to media consolidation, Facebook, etc. it's also easy to manipulate at a grand scale. Politicians who vote the right way can guarantee very high paying jobs when they are out of office.

It seems to me that democracy has been hijacked in the U.S. From my perspective, regardless of reason or solution it remains that corporations are not paying enough for the maintenance of society. Given that we have had free elections for some time it appears that the answer is more complex than just saying in theory we can vote out the scoundrels. In actuality this hasn't occurred and this suggests that something is wrong with the system.


> I suggest it's not as simple as just saying "vote" given the massive disparity in funding capabilities between the average citizen and the average Fortune 500 company. Money is powerful and greatly influences elections

You can find examples in almost any election of a heavily-funded initiative being defeated at the polls. Here in California, a recent example I can think of off the top of my head is the continual defeat of policies and politicians backed by charter school advocates, including in the Nov. 2018 election.

> It seems to me that democracy has been hijacked in the U.S.

Elected officials in the U.S. are in their positions because voters put them there. Unless you're claiming that substantial election fraud took place, you can't claim that democracy isn't working just because it didn't produce the result that you agree with.


I can find examples of a roulette spin landing on 00. However such examples are rare. In the same way one can find examples of where a well funded candidate did not win when going against a relatively underfunded candidate.

In circumstances of elections is best to talk about probabilities and concentrate on what is normative.

...you can't claim that democracy isn't working just because it didn't produce the result that you agree with.

I claim that American democracy is broken because it consistently produces results that are not in the the long term interests of the nation and are not done in the interest of the people. There are lots of reasons to support my belief but none of them have anything to do with me personally not liking the results it produces. Indeed, I'm quite satisfied with the results of the last Presidential election cycle. My candidate won.

I might be wrong in my belief that American democracy is broken.


Won’t matter. ‘They’ donate to both sides of the isle.

Lessig has a good video that breaks a lot of this process down. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PJy8vTu66tE


Wow, interesting video. Thanks for sharing!


To be fair, at least 40% of the "common" people reliably vote for candidates that are very up front about that fact that they will support low taxes for businesses.

This isn't some conspiracy of giant corporations and lobbyists beating down the will of the people. This IS the will of the people. In many regions it's the overwhelming majority of the people.


If you look at the histories of many politicians, you see them making honest efforts to represent their people... in the beginning of their careers.

A major problem is that there's so much money in campaigns that in order to get enough money to compete, a politician must make deals with donors. Often these donors are small groups of high wealth individuals or industries.

Now the politician is effectively in the pocket of the monied interests, or else they are out of government cone next election cycle.

Until campaigns are equally financed by "the people", the results will not have a chance of being representative of what the people want.

But ironically, to make that change would require the current government to take action that most of the big industries do not want. Thus, it will not happen.


When you spend most of you working day and a lot of your personal time mingling with high worth individual, it is only a matter of time before you lose sight of what is their interest and your people interest. Also those high worth individual are not bad person or repulsive. I'm sure a lot have good intention but are too sheltered. They can become your circle of friend and there is no way back from there.

There is also the plain political game. You can't make a political career alone, you need allies, people that trust you and support you within the party, above and under. Over the years, you get stuck in a network of dependencies that ties your hands.

And there is the sad reality that no single decision is going to improve anything. You need continuous and consistent effort in one direction for years. So even if you are aware of all that I listed above, the truth is that you can't go fully lose cannon and actually achieve anything lasting.


That's why I'm watching the new crop of Congresspeople like AOC, to see if we can spot if/when that change does occur.

I know for folks like Sanders, it might have switched early on, but he's getting more and more curmudgeonly about corporate thievery, eco-destruction, and worker rights.


> Companies lobby to keep, even coerce, laws that benefit them

This is true. But politicians are playing the exact same game. Back when I was a tax lawyer, I asked my boss why the R&D credit was temporary but always renewed. Why not just make it permanent? He said it was because then the companies had to keep donating to the politicians in order to maintain the status quo. If they'd made it permanent, there would be very little chance of repeal, and therefore much less need to stay cozy with the politicians. It's a 2-sided game.


The big problem is the corporate tax itself. It's incredibly hard to tax corporations fairly and efficiently, and as a result the corporate tax code is way more complex than any practical citizen could ever understand. It's hard enough for tax accountants and lawyers that have dedicated their entire profession to understanding it.

The whole reason we have a corporate tax is because we feel rich people need to be taxed more, but the association between corporation and rich person is fuzzy at best. More nefariously, you are taxing pools of organizational and financial capital as opposed to individuals...which means that their ability to fight the tax code is amplified with pooled resources. It's regulatory capture waiting to happen.

The better option would be to dump the corporate tax entirely, and have all capital gains and dividends taxed as income. I know it can't be that simple because they're not the same as income, but working out those details would be a hell of a lot easier than trying to figure out how to get corporations to repatriate income after their international tax arbitrage schemes.


Firstly, capital gains and dividends are income. They're not taxed as personal income because of how our tax law is worded, but that law is not set in stone, and the way it is right now is, shall we say, intentionally favorable to certain people.

Your better option doesn't actually work, though, because the really rich can dodge it by borrowing money against their wealth as collateral, and because once stock (and other capital) is inherited, the new owner doesn't pay taxes on its appreciation before acquiring it - so most of it is essentially untaxed entirely.


> The whole reason we have a corporate tax is because we feel rich people need to be taxed more

No, it's because without either having it or treating all corps as pass-through entities (which becomes problematic when you've got layers of ownership before tracing back to individual taxpayers) corporations become abusable as tax shelters.


>>If you don't like the law elect different politicians. Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

>I believe one way is to actually be involved in politics and get into the seats that govern and make the laws.


It indeed may be not that simple, but I think the key point of the driverdan's message is: could the article please have provided a little bit more actual detail in addition to rage and emotions?


Funny how removing the government's ability to interfere in our lives was not mentioned as a solution. Public brainwashing complete.


The thing that common person is unlikely to do care enough to allocate time and money to this.


It is a double edge sword. The tax laws that help business fewer taxes help small businesses too. Companies are allowed to carry over losses for five years, and since a lot of the streaming business operate at a loss, they can subsidize their future. Ideally, this allows you to spend a lot of money to gain growth and then profit from it. Preferably, after you start to profit you pay your taxes, but a lot of these businesses are public companies and have to maximize their stock price or give dividends. Very few tech companies pay dividends so it is all about there stock price. Typically, the stock price is linked to the revenue/profit growth. Apple, for example, took a beating because iPhone sales are normalizing and not growing, over a billion devices sold and Apple is still making record amounts of profit/revenue, and that is still not good enough. Unfortunately, it is a societal/human/capitalist problem, how do you keep the majority happy? That is typically through expansion, not contraction. Usually, contraction results in limited moral and over time that ends of cause governments and economies to fall.


Corporate taxes are value destructive. A company is either going to use that money to expand, creating a more jobs, paying employees more - who will pay taxes, or buy back stock or pay dividends.

The only real issue I have is the difference between capital gains taxes and income taxes.


"Value destructive" to whom? I don't want all the companies in my area to pay excessive taxes, but they also don't otherwise pay for any negative externalities that they cause or contribute to, except through taxes.

I don't want to shoulder the burden alone for their roads and traffic and pollution and power-grid-improvement requirements et cetera.

Maybe the system could be different where companies directly pay for the road upgrades they need and the power infrastructure upgrades they need, etc, but that's not the system we have where I live.


>Maybe the system could be different where companies directly pay for the road upgrades they need and the power infrastructure upgrades they need, etc...

This is the solution most economists would suggest.


That’s simple to solve via property taxes, gas taxes, yearly car registration fees, and even toll roads.


Or do some bullshit accounting to move the money off-shore, like pay billions to use their own trademark to a country in which they bought off politicians to get low taxes; so they can pay out the money without paying in to the governmental system in the country in which the money was raised.


That’s where property, gas, car, taxes etc come in.

All of the tax avoidance would be reduced by the company that had the lowest corporate income tax.


Honest question - can you give an example of a tax law that was lobbied for that benefited corporations?

And I mean beyond just a decrease in tax rate which businesses would be expected to lobby for.


I don't have a source on this, but I've commonly heard that tax software companies (intuit, hrblock, etc) lobby for not having simpler taxes because it would take away from a large part of their business. Again, no sources. Just something that is commonly thrown around.

Here is a HN discussion on it though: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16841449



This is a different thing: more of a tax regulation.

This thread is about reducing tax payable. The intuit story is about making it harder for citizens to file taxes.


Big companies lobby every law for their benefits. They hire full time lobyists. Big companies can pay million $ a year for lobbying.

Then the question is, does it really influence laws? Well I think if it didn't, they wouldn't spend so much money.


I think your last point is precisely backwards. Total annual lobbying spending is just $3.7 billion a year, in a $19 trillion economy. It's a tiny amount of money compared to the stakes. If lobbying was so effective companies would spend way more money on it.

It's also notable that you couldn't point to a specific tax law, like OP asked for. Lower taxes in general--nobody needs to lobby for that, there is a large contingent of people who favor that just on principle.


Maybe most companies can get the results that they want with small, strategic lobbying. It could be both effective and efficient, from an economic standpoint. Why else would organizations like ALEC exist? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_...


Why shouldn't ALEC exist? There is a sizable fraction of our polity that believes in the principles underlying ALEC proposals. Are you upset that those people are organized enough to write model legislation, or are you upset that the countervailing forces in the US don't have something as effective as ALEC?

We have the same thing for judges. The conservatives have the Federalist Society. The liberals have the ACS. But for whatever reason, the Federalists have better branding, and are a perennial bogeyman. But all either organization does is keep track of judges that fit their policy goals. What's wrong with that?


I am not upset. Points 5 and 6 on that article detail what I believe are legitimate criticisms about the lack of transparency in the process and how ALEC is used to bypass what I view as reasonable requirements for lobbying the government.

Why would a private organization that exists to write draft legislation need to be open and transparent? The legislation is public when it's proposed, and it's the task of legislators to evaluate it on its merits.

We don't know how much companies spend in secret through dark money, individual contributions, holding companies, bribes, etc., so that $3.7B is likely very low.


$3.7 billion a year is a lot. There aren't that many politicians to bribe.


If you keep it only at the federal level and assume that staff isn't being "lobbied",

100 senators 435 representatives 1 President 1 Vice President

~7 million dollars per person per year

:)


You do realize those aren't cash payments to the politician, right?


>There aren't that many politicians to bribe.

I think this is really the crux of the issue.

If a CEO met with a politician and said "I've talked to all my CEO buddies and if you do XYZ we're all going to make substantial contributions to your campaign and PACs" that's clear-cut bribery and honest services fraud.

But if the same CEO hires a lobbyist to say the exact same thing to a politician suddenly it's "free speech" and we're expected to believe the government can't do anything to reign it in.


> But if the same CEO hires a lobbyist to say the exact same thing to a politician suddenly it's "free speech" and we're expected to believe the government can't do anything to reign it in.

This is not what happens during lobbying. If you have any concrete evidence of this sort of exchange happening, please report it, since it's a blatant violation of federal law.



3.7 billion is an industry thay produces 100 times the value on investment on average.


What you're willing to pay to get something and you actually pay to get something are 2 completely different things. You will pay as little as you can to get to the result but you may be willing to pay a lot more.

It's also a matter of perception. Keeping the lobbying sums low(ish) also helps keep a lower profile. You don't want to draw too much attention to the fact that you're paying to get something done your way.

Plus, how much can you reasonably spend? In the end you're still trying to influence the same (relatively few) people, spending a considerable percentage of that "$19 trillion economy" is hard to make look legitimate.


I think that person was asking what one example is.


Maybe the reduction of the corporate rate during the trump tax cuts? The defense of this change, was that it was going to bring home money stashed in foreign tax havens.

During the bush tax cuts, there was also a tax holiday that allowed money to be brought back into the US at a very low tax rate. Can't imagine that 0 corporate lobbyists were involved in the process of creating these laws.

from wikipedia: "In 2004, the United States Congress enacted such a tax holiday for U.S. multinational companies in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (AJCA)) section 965, allowing them to repatriate foreign profits to the United States at a 5.25% tax rate, rather than the existing 35% corporate tax rate."


The carried-interest loophole was purchased and paid for by hedge funds.

Edit: From this[1] Bloomberg article:

> Under pressure from industry lobbyists and exploiting a split among White House advisers, the Republican Congress in December failed to fulfill Trump’s promise to end the tax windfall enjoyed by money managers. And lawmakers seemed to stumble in trying to narrow their tax advantage, writing the new carried-interest rule in a way that provided firms an easy escape.

Closing the loophole actually has bi-partisan support... except among those who spend a lot of time with industry lobbyists.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-14/mnuchin-s...


> Honest question - can you give an example of a tax law that was lobbied for that benefited corporations?

I don't know the answer so this is just speculation and five seconds of Googling (but I am writing this regardless because I hope someone knowledgeable will see this and correct me so I actually learn something)

My first stop was https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corporatetax.asp

> Corporations are permitted to reduce taxable income by certain necessary and ordinary business expenditures. All current expenses required for the operation of the business are fully tax deductible. Investments and real estate purchased for the intent of generating income for the business are also deductible. A corporation can deduct employee salaries, health benefits, tuition reimbursement and bonuses. In addition, a corporation can reduce its taxable income by insurance premiums, travel expenses, bad debts, interest payments, sales taxes, fuel taxes and excise taxes. Tax preparation fees, legal services, bookkeeping and advertising costs are also used to reduce business income.

So here is my interpretation: Let us say for ease of math, I am Pupflix and I have 100 customers who pay $10 per month. I have an annual income of $100 * 10 * 12 = $12,000. Let us say I pay salary of $20 a month, so $12 * 20 = $240. I can deduct that. So my income is now $1200 - $240 = $960. Lets say my operating expenses are $10 a month. I can deduct that as well, so deduct $120 from $960, which leaves me with $840.

Now all this is relatively straight forward. From what I've learned from previous conversations, corporation tax is on profits, and not in revenue. Apparently, this is essential because some businesses are very low margin. Apparently, when all is said and done, a retail grocery store typically has under 5% profit (before any shenanigans).

However, what happens when our Pupflix pays Disney Corporation $1000 in licensing fees for the right to stream Disney content for the next ten years? Does our Pupflix deduct $1000 this year? That would be very wasteful because our income at this point is only $840.

I believe this is where Loss Carryforward comes in. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/losscarryforward.asp

> For example, if a company experiences negative net operating income (NOI) in year one, but positive NOI in subsequent years, it can reduce the amount of future profits it reports using a loss carryforward to report some or all of the loss from the first year in the subsequent years. This results in lower taxable income in positive NOI years, and reduces the amount the company owes the government in taxes. Imagine a company lost $5 million one year and earned $6 million the next. The loss from the first year can be carried forward and included in the current balance sheet for the second year, lowering the profits, and therefore the taxable income, for that year to $1 million.

I am not an accountant. My guess is that the accounting people will somehow run multiple possible execution paths and choose the "best" one. I think the tax field is very nuanced and just being able to classify an expense as either operating vs capital can make a difference in the amount of taxes a corporation has to pay:

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/042415/what-differe...

For example, when I was a contractor my boss told me that I am a "cap ex" which is OK but for some reason he couldn't bring me on as full time because reasons. Not that this would change my work at all. I was working with the team just like any full-time employee would. I just wasn't their employee. How this makes sense, I have no idea. I doubt he lied to me. There are probably hundreds of things like this where you could argue an expense is one way or another depending on what suits a company the best at that time.

I welcome all corrections and additions to eliminate omissions and especially concrete examples that refurb asked for


> For example, when I was a contractor my boss told me that I am a "cap ex" which is OK but for some reason he couldn't bring me on as full time because reasons.

My last job had a number of people in a similar situation. The reason was fairly straight forward: Higher-ups in the parent company decided how many full-time developers we would need over the next 5-10 years, and anything we needed on top of that had to be contractors because we were only filling short-term needs.

Nobody in the chain between us and them actually understood the rationale, because it was a totally arbitrary number for a plan made under assumptions that were no longer the case. Unfortunately, noone could convince them that it wasn't the case either, so we all just carried on.


Netflix hasn't, to my knowledge, even filed their 2018 annual yet (or their Q4 2018), so I'm not sure what they're even basing their numbers on. But they admit elsewhere that Netflix paid taxes most of the preceding years, averaging out around 13.5%. In the end their tax lawyers do exactly what tax lawyers do, and unless they're breaking the law so be it.

As an aside, it's rich that it's always Americans complaining about companies paying low American taxes on billions that they make overseas. Netflix is more international than American now (2/3rds of their subscribers are not Americans), yet they are especially adept at avoiding taxes everywhere else. In the UK they have repeatedly paid $0 because they claim to be a Netherlands operation there, etc. In Canada every single competitor has to charge a sales tax of 13% (and consumers weigh the total cost, so if applied it would put downward pressure on Netflix's prices), but Netflix charges none.

In any case, corporate tax rates are often much ado about nothing because in the end that money ends up in various other tax brackets. It becomes a capital gain, or a dividend, or some other form that often gets taxed at the personal level.


> In Canada every single competitor has to charge a sales tax of 13%

Just to clarify, there's no 13% sales tax - that'll be 5% federal and X% provincial (which ranges from 0-10%).


It's a bit more complicated than that with harmonized sales tax in 5 of the provinces. So technically in those provinces (such as Ontario) it is indeed a single 13% sales tax and no longer a combination of federal/provincial.

But largely in practice you're correct as even the combined HST varies (13% in Ontario, 15% in the four Atlantic coast provinces).


Netflix unaudited numbers for the 12 months ending 2018-12-31 were published on the 17th of last month. 15.216M USD in income tax paid, if I am reading the statement correctly. Income before tax during that period is stated to be 1.226G USD. Income tax rebate of 73.608M USD in the 12 months ending 2017-12-31, for comparison.


According to the supplemental items on the cash flow statement, Netflix technically paid $131 million in cash for income taxes during fiscal 2018. But it's true that it only owes $15 million for its operations during the year.


> In any case, corporate tax rates are often much ado about nothing because in the end that money ends up in various other tax brackets. It becomes a capital gain, or a dividend, or some other form that often gets taxed at the personal level.

Clearly corporate taxes are charged for a reason and presumably the additional revenue would be of benefit. However it seems to me that in our outrage we lose sight of the fact that the money doesn't disappear. If a company retains a greater portion of its revenue it has to do something with it. And as you say whether they payout dividends, hire more staff, expand their operations the at least some portion of the money comes back into the system. I guess the main difference is that the government doesn't get to decide how it is spent...


> at least some portion of the money comes back into the system.

Apple is a fairly decent point to the contrary; they were able to let money sit around doing absolutely nothing at all because they didn't want to touch it until they didn't face stiff repatriation taxes for doing so.

Generally speaking, though, I agree with your later points. The first one- corporate taxes are charged for a reason- I'm less convinced that the reason is a good one. It mostly seems like a feel-good way to bury the tax so people don't realize that they're ultimately paying for it.


Trickle down economics eh? When did that ever work?


If I spend a few million to get some lawyers to work out a legal loophole that means I can murder someone and get away with it that wouldn't make it OK to actually do it.

The same applies to tax avoidance. It might be legal but it's still wrong.


If it's due to carryover losses, which is usually what this sort of rage bait boils down to, it's not only "legal" but "not wrong." Carryover losses are the mathematical byproduct of a tax system that taxes gains in wealth (i.e. income) but must be sampled annually. It would be completely brain damaged to treat two companies differently that make the same total profit over a fixed period depending merely on the pattern of profits and losses over that period. There would be no value to it other than mitigating misdirected outrage from people ignorant about how taxes work.


Agreed, but, in fairness, the personal income tax contains exactly this brain damage.

If I make $100k in one year and then $10k the next, I pay 19% of it in income taxes, even though I averaged $55k/year which should mean paying 14.6% of it in taxes.

(Using figures for a single filer from the 2019 brackets; assuming away the person deduction for simplicity.) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/federal-income-tax-bra...


You're right, but this is known to people with lumpy income and they do not like it. There's some mitigation depending on how you depreciate or don't depreciate on a Schedule C (people with this issue tend to be self-employed) or if you have the ability to run your income through a corporation to even it out.


Even worse, individuals pay taxes on revenue, not profit, aside from a very narrow set of deductible expenses.


That's not worse.

Humans all have basically the same expense structure so taxing revenue makes sense. Corporations from different industries have wildly different expense structures so taxing on revenue would be nonsensical: you would end up undertaxing high profit industries like tech or pharma and massively overtaxing low profit industries like retail.


Would you include 401k as a loophole that is legal but wrong?

401K was not the idea of some smart legislator. The 401K name comes from a section of the IRS code. This section was added in 1978 but for 2 years no one paid much attention to it. A creative interpretation of that provision by a smart consultant gave birth to first 401k savings plan. The government tried to repeal the 401K provision twice once it realized the enormous tax loss from the 401K provision.

http://401kbenna.com/401k-history.html


Here are some "loopholes" you can use to legally get away with "murder": 1) be an executioner, performing a state-sanctioned execution, 2) be a member of the military and kill an enemy combatant, 3) be a doctor performing an assisted suicide in a jurisdiction where that's legal, 4) defend yourself from a violent crime in progress.

You might argue that none of those are actually "murder," but in fact legal "killing." I'd agree. I'd counter that a "legal loophole," is the same idea. The operative word is "legal," and "loophole" is tossed on to spark outrage.

There's also an argument to be made, that some of the legal killings I've described are morally wrong. That's a subject of much debate. You're welcome to hold yourself to a higher standard than the law requires, or to lobby to change the law, but we have laws so that people are not subject to the individual morality of everyone, but on the consensus we come to as a nation.


> The same applies to tax avoidance. It might be legal but it's still wrong.

how is a company supposed to determine the morally correct amount of taxes?

if they hire incompetent accountants who pay excess taxes, are they more moral?


First, comparing the legal activity of finding ways to minimize tax liability to murder is ludicrous. You may not agree with the law, but they haven't been found to have done anything illegal.

Second, what's your specific issue with the debt carryover exemption?


In this case the way Netflix avoided income taxes was entirely reasonable and something I would hope to add to the legal code if it wasn't already there, like the self defense exception for murder charges.


>If I spend a few million to get some lawyers to work out a legal loophole

You seem like you are privy to some inside information. What legal loophole did Netflix got their high-priced lawyers to exploit?

>I can murder someone and get away with it that wouldn't make it OK to actually do it.

Because murder is the same as following the tax code to the letter.

>The same applies to tax avoidance. It might be legal but it's still wrong.

Again, what are we talking about here? Why did Netflix owe no taxes this year. I would think that would be the first step before determining the morality their actions.


> The same applies to tax avoidance. It might be legal but it's still wrong.

Why? I'd argue that the US federal government is mostly immoral, and thus paying taxes is wrong. I only do it because I'm coerced into acting immorally from the threat of violence.

Comparing an action like murder, which is overwhelmingly believed to be immoral by religions and philosophers for millennia, to not overpaying US federal taxes is just silly.


Avoiding murder is a fairly objective moral decision. Most of us find this easy to follow, without getting into shades of gray between murder and justifiable homicide.

But what is the moral tax rate for a corporation, if not 0%? Is it 18.25%, as opposed to 7.09%? There's no objective answer, and it fluctuates from region to region, year to year, depending on how much governments can extract before corporations flee.


That is oversimplifying. Would it have been wrong to avoid paying taxes to the Nazis, or the Stalinists, or the Maoists, or the Khmer Rouge?

You are implicitly incorporating the morality of supporting an unspecified government into business behavior.

If you believe that, on balance, expenditures by the US government of tax-derived revenues produces more harm in the world than good, you would therefore consider it a moral virtue to legally and lawfully minimize the amount of taxes delivered to the IRS. If you believe that expenditures by the US government of tax-derived revenues do more good than otherwise, then you would consider tax avoidance to be morally wrong. But then you also have to consider whether a corporation has a greater moral obligation to maximize value for its shareholders, or to pursue a specific purpose as stated in its charter. In either case, the corporation should seek to retain as much control over the disposition of its revenues as is possible.

In your "legal murder" hypothetical, I would consider it both moral and ironic to murder the person responsible for creating the legal murder loophole, along with any other person that has ever used it. I might still refrain, as that means I would be losing some of my morality-based protections against being murdered, with the knowledge that my legal protections are already nonexistent in loophole-compliant circumstances.

But I am a natural intelligence with moral agency. A corporation is an artificial intelligence, programmed by bug-ridden legal documents, and its program executed by its lawyers and C-level principals. It isn't a paperclip optimizer, but it is a banknote optimizer. It has no moral values that humans can readily recognize. It isn't a psychopath or sociopath; it's just alien. In order for a corporation to exhibit moral behavior, the morality has to be included in its programming. That's difficult. It is much easier to incorporate by reference the entire body of public law, and then allow the corporation to pursue "any lawful purpose". And tax avoidance, aside from moral considerations, is still "lawful".


I agree with you. This is also why I oppose drone strikes which is the President (current and past two) doing exactly this.


I don't care if you think tax avoidance is wrong. I am still going to maximize my life around avoiding taxes and I feel absolutely zero remorse for doing it.


Then you're a selfish person. Your fellow citizens deserve better.


https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/the-morality-of-tax-avoidance

Let me ask you a question; have you ever deducted anything from your taxes? If so, you are “guilty” of tax avoidance. Every person claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit is engaged in tax avoidance. Anyone that ever deducted anything is a tax avoider.


Argument by contrived analogy is so awful.


Can you explain why you think that analogy is contrived?


I think the argument is contrived because loop holes for murder don't exist for a reason, which is that the electoral connection -> legislative process essentially leaves zero room for there to be such a loophole. In fact, concepts such as the intended meaning of the law mean that even if you hacked some edge case in the written law, you'd still go to jail.

Conversely, tax law operates under a general regime where the expected and encouraged behavior of firms is to do their best to avoid paying taxes. In fact, maximizing share-holder value is even legally required (if blatantly ignored the firm is open to lawsuit).

More generally, analogy is an attempt to model one unknown phenomena, by claiming it is actually just a subset in the core abstract moral dimensions as another obvious and solved phenomena. While making comparisons isn't always bad, In practice it frequently seems to obfuscate or wash away really critical idiosyncratic differences (e.g. what I alluded to above) and as a result over-simplifies often complex topics.

The original point was really just 'legality is not the same thing as morality,' which is fine, I think most people agree with that. The question is how and does that concept apply in this given case, and I think to address that question properly requires engaging with the specific details.


> I think the argument is contrived because loop holes for murder don't exist for a reason, which is that the electoral connection -> legislative process essentially leaves zero room for there to be such a loophole.

Loopholes do exist for murder: for instance, self defense. The Trayvon Martin case is an example of this. The loophole exists for valid reasons, but it's often taken advantage of to circumvent the spirit of the law.

> In fact, concepts such as the intended meaning of the law mean that even if you hacked some edge case in the written law, you'd still go to jail.

Can you provide evidence that this applies only to murder and not to tax evasion?

> Conversely, tax law operates under a general regime where the expected and encouraged behavior of firms is to do their best to avoid paying taxes.

I'll agree it's expected, but I think you'd have a hard time finding a politician or member of the working class who would say firms are encouraged to avoid paying taxes.

I agree that it's not a perfect analogy, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss it entirely.


Probably because tax avoidance within the constraints of the law is actually legal, and comparing murder to tax avoidance is just silly.


Yes and it also makes the point clear that tax law isn't just in the sense of right or wrong.

Clearly the majority think murder is wrong and if you could avoid the consequences of committing murder by way of spending money that would probably also be considered wrong. Murder loop holes would be closed up pretty quick I hope.


> Anyone mad at a company for not pay taxes is misdirecting their anger. Companies follow the law. If you don't like the law elect different politicians. Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

Agreed. Are they supposed to purposely waste their shareholders money to take a moral stance against tax avoidance? When it's something that any corporation can do, then they have no choice but to do it to stay competitive. Regulators are the only ones in a position to stop it.


They have regulators. In the US they’re the IRS. And the regulations are being followed apparently.


Regulators don't care about stopping it, they only care about lining up their pockets. You have a corrupt agent and then you expect another corrupt agent to do you justice.


> You have a corrupt agent and then you expect another corrupt agent to do you justice.

I don't expect anything. I am just saying that regulators are the only ones in a position to stop tax avoidance. Corporations might be corrupt or they might not, and it would have no impact on the issue either way. The corruption of regulators is the sole cause of tax avoidance, not the corruption of corporations. Even morally sound corporations are forced to use tax avoidance to be competitive, since it is legally permitted. If they don't, they will be outcompeted. Therefore whether or not a corporation is corrupt has no impact on whether it will use tax avoidance.


You have evidence of Netflix paying-off corrupt IRS agent, right?


How is an IRS agent a regulator? IRS are just enforcers of regulation.


I interpreted 'regulator' as IRS agent because the discussion is on Netflix tax bill and you talked about some corrupt agents ... but OK, an IRS agent isn't really a regulator ... kind of. The executive branch bureaucracy is tasked with enforcing existing laws (which includes regulating specific domains). Regardless, my actual point stands and you haven't answered that. More specifically 1) what is it that you're actually talking about and 2) do you actually evidence of any impropriety with respect to Netflix' tax bill? Because you are so sure about all those corrupt agents who lined their pockets in order to give Netflix a lighter tax burden.

Answers from the 10-K:

#1: "Excess tax benefits on stock-based compensation": (191,323) #2: "Federal and California R&D tax credits": (140,749)

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1065280/000106528019...


Do we have any idea what Netflix activity qualifies for the Federal or California R&D tax credits?

Would Netflix OSS meet the Seven Tests for Internal Use Software [1] to qualify for the R&D Credit? Or is it likely to be something else? Is this information public?

[1] https://www.ftb.ca.gov/businesses/credits/rd/seventests.shtm...


I also would like the details.

I think citing people "mad at the company" is a straw man. I'm sure someone is, but most people are angry at the system.

It's really quite simple. My marginal tax rate is probably 28% or 32% or something. My effective federal rate is, I'm sure, sub-20%, but every additional dollar I make is taxed at that top rate.

I don't need billionaires to be taxed at 70% or have a wealth tax. I just want people to pay the tax they're supposed to pay. I don't want loopholes where someone made $100m through cattle future derivatives that have a carve-out when implemented in cities in farm states with populations of under 10,000, so they pay 0%.

Same for corporations. Fine, you write of x,y,z. But at some point if you're making more money than ever you shouldn't be paying less tax than ever, let alone $0. The solution, in my mind, is not to soak them for being successful. The solution is to find each and every loophole they're exploiting, and tear them the hell up.


>"If you don't like the law elect different politicians."

What an incredibly naive statement that is. Of the 11K registered lobbyists in Washington, DC more than half of them 6200 of them worked on tax related issues in 2017. 4,200 of them specifically on tax reform[1][2][3] Put another way that is 11 lobbyists for every individual member of congress. The lobbyists are the ones shaping the tax code. Further tax reform is a generational thing, the last time it was taken up was under Reagan in 1986. Simply "electing different politicians" will accomplish nothing.

>"Anyone mad at a company for not pay taxes is misdirecting their anger. Companies follow the law."

No, one of the reasons that the US is great place to start a business is because there's a mature legal system, a stable government, and infrastructure and those things take money to run. If the country provides an environment that allowed a Netflix to start up and prosper then why shouldn't that company be expected to help pay for all those things? Both individual and corporations should share the burden of that. So no the anger is not "misdirected" at all when it's directed at entity who's shirking their responsibility. Just because something is legal does not necessarily make it right.

[1] https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/swamped-tax-lobb...

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/us/politics/lobbyists-tax...

[3] https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/...


> The lobbyists are the ones shaping the tax code. Further tax reform is a generational thing, the last time it was taken up was under Reagan in 1986. Simply "electing different politicians" will accomplish nothing.

If the lobbyists had infinite power, I guess the corporate tax rate would be zero -- or negative. So, popular voting must be accomplishing something.

> mature legal system, a stable government, and infrastructure and those things take money to run

Which is by no means the lion's share of a state or federal budget. Chief are all the transfer programs, followed by defense well in excess of the necessary spend for protecting the 50 states from invading armies.


>"If the lobbyists had infinite power, I guess the corporate tax rate would be zero -- or negative. So, popular voting must be accomplishing something."

Nowhere did I or anyone suggest that lobbyists had "infinite power." Further Lobbyists work on behalf of specific industries or specific companies to to get specific provisions that benefit their client(s). There is no "corporate tax rate lobby" working on behalf of corporate clients everywhere. So no there is absolutely no reason the tax rate would ever be zero. What an absurd comment. Popular voting? Firstly he electoral system in the US isn't even based on "popular vote" it's based on electoral vote. And there is zero connection between the practice of voting and the practice of lobbying.


Companies also lobby heavily for these tax laws. The laws may be directly responsible, but big companies share some blame as well.


Actually the biggest lobbyists for tax laws aren't companies but accounting firms.


The answer is to outlaw lobbyists, it would fix a lot of problems. That, and enact term limits for Congress. That will fix even more.


>The answer is to outlaw lobbyists, it would fix a lot of problems.

No it wouldn't. Our current regulated lobby 'industry' is an attempt to control something that would happen ANYWAY if it was made illegal. Furthermore, lobbying is necessary and a core part of any democracy. You need to be able to petition your representative government for changes, regardless if you're a regular citizen, an activist, a business owner, or even a corporate entity.


Speeding happens anyway even though it is illegal, but at least there are legal consequences for speeding to deter people.


Right, 'speeding' is an infraction that results from regulating traffic. Nobody suggests that lobbying should not be regulated (and guess what, it is!). OP suggested that lobbying should be illegal. The equivalent to that in your analogy is to ban cars.


I’m not sure what we are mad about here, that companies and individuals want good tax laws? I am not sure how Netflix’s alleged tax rate hurts anyone. Remember, 45% of Americans pay no federal income tax at all! How about we complain about that first assuming the goal is that everyone pay their fair share. There is no argument that is logical that can justify the top 20% of earners paying 70% of all income taxes. Nobody’s fair share is zero.


http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/06/a-closer-loo...

Your 45% number is misleading on it's own. People don't pay income tax because they had so little income to tax in the first place.


A senate race costs a few million. 20 at most.

Netflix revenue for 1 year was 845 million.

Netflix can afford a few senators if they want. Instead they just lobby existing legislators and put bills on their desks.

Corporations are not just "following the law", they're writing it.

>If you don't like the law elect different politicians

How? Government officials are far more beholden to corporations like netflix than they are to people like us. If push comes to shove then corporations can spend a trivial amount of money to crack the consensus among the group of people pushing for change.


It’s pretty simple. I’m surprised more people don’t know about this.

it’s called net operating loss. when you’ve lost money over the last ten years you can deduct those losses from your gains and only pay taxes on the difference.

Makes senses, right? A business needs to cover the losses before there is really a “profit” to pay taxes on. But this ends up incentivizing losing money, and makes the silicon valley business model of raising a ton of money and running at a loss to try and dominate the market a lot more profitable


I'm guessing a lot of people on here will be shocked, if you aren't shocked already, by their tax returns this year. The new $10k cap on SALT (state and local tax) deductions, which was previously unlimited, will really hurt a lot of people living in high tax states like CA and NY/NJ, especially those who have even a modest property in those states.


While that on principal is true, as an average citizen, digging into whether or not Netflix actually did something illegal is logistically impossible (not to mention requires skill very few outside of private industry-tax-optimization has).

Looking at a successful company like Netflix, boasting massive profits and growing fast while paying no taxes is a reasonable proxy for something not being right.

Either Netflix is doing something wrong (and the public needs to take action) or the system is broken (and the public needs to take action).

In either case, anger and discussion is in its place


>Companies follow the law. If you don't like the law elect different politicians. Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

If a company is dumping waste into a lake and it is not against the law to do so, it is then wrong to get mad at the company? What if this is the behavior of all companies in the area? They all need to dump waste in the lake in order to remain competitive.

Is it wrong to become outraged at the companies for their behavior? They should not be held accountable?


In seemingly every one of these cases of "corporation doesn't pay TAXES!", it's more along the lines (to use your analogy) of:

in 2017, Netflix dredged out a canal to allow access to another waterway.

in 2018, they added concrete to the new shoreline to prevent erosion due to the newly created canal.

2019 headlines: In 2018, netflix dumped over 18 bazillion tonnes of concrete into lake nature!

It's clickbait, almost every time.

Are there "loopholes" (incentive programs) that companies take advantage of? Of course there are. One might argue that those tax incentives are why the United States has one of the strongest economies in the world.


Well, “wrong” is subjective, but it’s certainly pointless to get mad at such a company.

Companies are amoral, and they are emergent behavior that is a product of a particular political, economic, and cultural situation.

It’s a bit like getting outraged at a tree for falling on your house.


Human beings are also an emergent behavior that are a product of complex biological processes and their environment. Is it pointless to become outraged at a person?


I love that in arguments like these there's always someone who switches the blame to the consumer.

There are lots of things that are unwritten rules in life. The consumer is expected to follow them, why would it be any different for corporations? Not paying you fair contribution to society might not be illegal, but it sure sounds immoral to me.

I think it's about time everyone stops shrugging this shit away.


Yes. Companies follow the law. But companies also write the laws. Pretty much every tax loophole/shelter/etc ( international or domestic ) was created at the behest of companies and their hordes of lobbyists and lawyers.

Slave owners followed the law also. Kings followed the law.

If we can't get mad at companies for following the law, can we at least be mad at them for creating these laws?


I'm not sure the point of these articles is to make people mad at the companies. Nobody expects a large public company to break the law evading taxes because they have to release their numbers, so what they're doing must be legal.

The best way to highlight loopholes and broken parts of the tax system is to point out when they're being used and taken advantage of.


From what I recall of a report in 2017, the main ways Netflix was able to avoid tax was due to Research Tax Credits and, mostly, due to the way stock options are treated. (I am not a tax lawyer, so go easy) The gist was that companies can claim a discount on stock options exercised by employees.


Judging from the text of the article:

> Netflix did it twice, and paid an average tax rate of 13.6 percent over the eight-year period

Carryover losses is the most likely reason, and focusing it on only one year makes for a good headline but terrible economic/policy analysis.


Companies lobby politicians/make campaign contributions/fly them to expensive resorts to be wine'd, dine'd and golf'd.

Then politicians make policy that favors those wealthy companies.


Moneyland by Oliver Bullough tells you exactly how.


Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

The companies... make the law. That's what people are angry about.


More than that, public companies have obligation to maximise profits for their shareholders as long as they are following the letter of law. There is not much choice here, they can't pay even if they wanted unless they can show this is somehow in shareholders' best interest.


>public companies have obligation to maximise profits for their shareholders //

They're not. Not in EU or USA at least.

So, not they aren't under any obligation to be shitty to the public by diminishing tax paid in the countries they operate in.

Anyone posting an attempted contradiction should cite the relevant laws making it a legal requirement for companies to maximise profits [above any [other] moral consideration].


Well. The law does not say that the reason for company to exist is to bring profit. In that you are correct, there is no legal requirement for companies to maximise profits. For example, in Delaware, company may be formed for "any lawful business or purpose".

Now, once the "business and purpose" of the company is defined to be profit for the shareholders the company has fiduciary duty to perform in the "best interest" of the company and its shareholders as defined by this mission statement.

As long as paying minimum tax serves the best interest of company that is brought for profit of its shareholders then that's what the company is bound to do.

As I mentioned, it is possible that pure monetary value is not the best interest in the company. That's why, for example, companies spend on image building, because it believes it is in the best interest for the company and the shareholder in achieving long term mission of bringing profit (as long as the mission is "for profit").

The company may build local school or feed poor children in Africa, as long as it serves the best interest of the company and shareholders as defined by its mission.

"In a famous 1970 article in The New York Times Magazine, Milton Friedman wrote that the “great virtue” of the shareholder wealth maximization norm is that “it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to ‘exploit’ other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes.”" (https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...)

The way I understand it is US, the people, who decide what is in the best interest of the companies. We have power to decide that being pro-environment is in the best interest of every company and we also have power to make it in the future the best interest of every company to pay taxes. But now that the standards are set, at any given point in time, the officers of the company have obligation to serve in its best interest and we only have ourselves to blame for allowing this to continue be the best interest of the company.


> Now, once the "business and purpose" of the company is defined to be profit for the shareholders the company has fiduciary duty to perform in the "best interest" of the company and its shareholders as defined by this mission statement.

Absolutely not. Here are the fiduciary duties of corporate management:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fiduciary-responsibi...

The closest that comes to your assertion is the "Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty" and that states managers must put the best interests of the corporation (note, not just the shareholders) above their own. In general, the management of corporations in the US has significant leeway (from a legal standpoint) in deciding how best to run their corporation. If the board doesn't like the choices upper management is making, their recourse is to fire upper management.

Furthermore, the standard you are asserting is legally ludicrous. Not every shareholder has the same "best interest". There is no litigable standard of "best", thus no way of holding executives legally responsible for actions they didn't take. Additionally, such a standard would open up people to civil consequences merely for being bad at their job.

> "In a famous 1970 article in The New York Times Magazine, Milton Friedman wrote that the “great virtue” of the shareholder wealth maximization norm is that “it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to ‘exploit’ other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes.”" (https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...)

That was Friedman's opinion. It was never substantiated by any statute or case law.


> Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

I think people are outraged because the laws themselves are unfair and special tax breaks are doled out.

> If you don't like the law elect different politicians.

In our form of government it's possible for a presidential candidate with fewer total votes to win (Trump & Bush). If we had a popular vote for President this argument would make more sense.

Also, on a ballot we're often given 2 (maybe 3) choices for representation. These representatives often need to raise money and they raise money from the companies and wealthy individuals that benefit from the tax breaks and exemptions.

Unfortunately, it's a cycle of influence (aka - light bribery) that keeps these unequal laws going.

A flat tax without exemptions seems like the fair and simple way to address this, but there's so much money to be made by making taxes complicated that it's hard to imagine well funded politicians actually passing something like that.


> If you don't like the law elect different politicians.

lol, you are being hopeful. (for example, I voted for Obama because he promised to repeal the "PATRIOT" Act and instead of doing that, he made it worst)

(But I agree with you that the laws are the problem...)


Could it be possible that sometimes laws are immoral? And that companies, while following the letter of the law are in fact acting immoral too?

Why defend those companies?


Rather than be mad realize that this is actually good.


Companies lobby to create favourable laws. They are as much to blame.


> Anyone mad at a company for not pay taxes is misdirecting their anger. Companies follow the law. If you don't like the law elect different politicians. Don't get mad at companies that follow the law.

Either way it's a symptom of a rotten system.


What a naive view, frankly. Yes, it's probably perfectly legal for them (and others) to pay single-digit taxes. And they can do so because they can 1) afford expensive lawyers and tax advisors, and 2) lobby congress to protect them indefinitely.

It's unfair, plain and simple. Stop pretending it's right only because it's legal.


I think his point is that some set of arbitrary morals don't stop behavior when filing taxes, laws do.


Please point me to the people who are mad at the company. I'll wait.


Because in a democracy, it is always easier for one bad actor to spend $xyz,000 on lobbying the government to let them steal $10,000,000 from the public, then for 300 million people to organize, and lobby against you stealing 3 cents from each of them. It's an obvious defect of the system.

Of course, in 2019, half of those people have been convinced that they'll become rich, if they just let large firms fleece them.


Stopping this sort of bribery is part of the definition of a functioning democracy in my opinion.

You say “in a democracy” but you really mean “in the corrupt US”. Political campaign finance works totally differently in a lot of places.

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