In conversation with a close friend the other day, he mentioned that when recently negotiating a one-off service for a new client, a financial institution, in quoting his fee he said, 'And of course there'll be VAT on top of that', to which they replied, 'Ah sure, we'll just pay cash up front and not bother will all that tax nonsense'.
It's not just Amazon, Google and Apple, you know. They're all at it. Avoiding certainly, evading perhaps, paying their due taxes and leaving you and I to pick up the big shortfall. Use fancy accountants and legal or ambiguous tax loop-holes... and, hey presto, the rich cats stay rich and we the new poor... well, need I spell it out?
Amazon and Google are in deep doodah in the UK after it has come to light how much taxes they have avoided paying Her Majesty's Revenue by arguing ostensibly that the bulk of business they do in the UK 'originates' in the Republic of Ireland and thus that country is the one they pay taxes to. And, of course, as Apple knows only too well – and exploits to the hilt – the Republic is a favourable place for big, foreign conglomerates when it comes to their tax affairs 'cos sure, goes the Dublin argument, after all haven't they given 'our boys' all those jobs?
Apple is in serious doodah with the US Revenue over the corporation taxes it has managed to avoid paying back home, opting instead to give not much more than a quarter to the Irish Government of what could have been their liability.
As Barack Obama and his senate sub-committees are discovering of late, the main reason corporate taxes have fallen off so much is that multinational companies have avoided bringing foreign profits home. As long as a company stays overseas, it can defer paying home taxes on such huge profits.
All this week Google, Amazon and Apple have been routinely deflecting criticism about ridiculously low corporate tax rates, invariably, and ad nauseum, saying that they – and I quote – are in compliance with all tax laws.
There are those who argue, that, as bad as it looks – and believe me it's bad, real bad – these corporations are not to blame. That they would be remiss in their fiduciary duty to their shareholders if they did not 'exploit' every legal tax advantage and every year, it just so happens, their over-paid accountants just get better and better at such exploitation.
That's it in black and white. Exploitation. And that in my book has always smacked of greed and unfairness. Moral impropriety. And such moral impropriety will continue onwards and upwards unless Washington and London and Dublin and the rest take serious action on corporate tax reform.
There's irony of sorts in that the big companies under this current spotlight are companies who have given our world the New Order in that what they sell in huge numbers to make huge profits are the tools and tricks of the digital age.
I would be the last not to embrace the freedom that comes with the New Age – that you can book a flight, watch TV, bank, shop, talk to friends the other side of the world, all from the palm of your hand, right here in the here and now.
Such, though, has come with a price, that in a generation or two may prove a costly one. Technology has in a perverse way robbed us of eye-to-eye human contact, depersonalised and dehumanised us. We no longer, even for work, ever again have to leave the couch. We don't meet up but rather talk on Facebook; we have lost the art of the hand-written letter and no longer send postcards on holiday when a text will suffice – the language of such an assault on all that is unique about the English language.
Defamation aside as with Lord Alpine, most pernicious is the freedom given murdering fanatics to spew their venom, courtesy of social media as broadcast from London this week.
Seldom do I use the commuter train but did so last Monday during the evening rush-hour. The train was jammed but all, with few exceptions, were either watching TV on their laptop, Facebooking on their iPad, or texting and tweeting on their phone.
There was no personal interaction, no eye contact, no tactility. Zombie-like, enslaved by their personal devices: mesmerised and lost in their other world.
And I couldn't help but think that these commuters, the ones that is who still have any jobs left to go to, are the very souls being ripped off by the Big Boys who have lulled them and dulled them with their technology as they try to pick up the pieces of the financial mess we are drowning in because of the Big Boys' refusal to pay their way in the world, a world that is increasingly an inequitable one.
I am seeing the future and I have my doubts it will work.