tax

  • If the eurozone FTT were adopted by the UK it would probably amount to a big tax cut for the City, but the British are still unlikely to support it because they are so allergic to EU taxes, says the FT’s Alex Barker.
  • Wealthy foreign investors have long used offshore companies to hold property in London, but the scale of the practice is raising eyebrows: between 1999 and 2012 nearly 100,000 UK properties were bought through foreign companies.
  • Central banks are using specific regulatory tools to tackle credit and house price growth, rather than raising interest rates, but there are questions over whether this regulation can stop a boom.
  • MI5 warns British corporate chiefs that foreign intelligence agencies are targeting their IT workers, hoping to use them to gain access to sensitive computer systems.
  • Vox explains Middle East history and the big stories in the region through the medium of maps.

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♦ The G8 leaders commit to shake up international corporate tax rules, and crackdown on tax evasion and the shadowy owners of shell companies. (If you want to know why it’s such a global issue, take a look through our Great Tax Race series.) They also agree to push for a Syrian peace conference – although Putin still won’t budge on Assad.
♦ President Obama’s move to increase the public flow of arms to selected Syrian rebels is probably his worst foreign policy decision since taking office, argues Marc Lynch.
♦ To ordinary Russians, a defeat of the Syrian rebels is seen as a victory over the west, says Andrei Nekrasov, a Russian film and television director.
♦ Circassians are protesting against the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 150 years after being expelled from there.
♦ The tiny emirate of Fujairah is emerging as an increasingly important global strategic oil and logistics hub.
♦ The Global Post experiments with the language used by US journalists to write about foreign countries, by using it to write about the US.

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♦ The FT argues today that Apple’s decision to borrow money in order to fund a dividend, despite being one of America’s most liquid companies, indicates a need for reform to the US tax system.
♦ Despite impressive economic growth, improvements in living standards in Malaysia have lagged behind those of its neighbours, building pressure for change ahead of Sunday’s election.
♦ North African governments are trying to stem the flow of young Islamic militants, heading to Syria to fight the regime.
♦ President François Hollande is struggling to please everyone and, in fact, anyone – leading to concerns that France might become the next European problem child. After a draft paper by the president’s party described Angela Merkel as “selfish”, Mr Hollande has had to reassure her that he still believes in a Franco-German relationship.
♦ William Finnegan discusses his article on Mark Lyttle, a US citizen from North Carolina who was deported to Mexico despite ample evidence that he was an American, and the soaring number of deportations.
♦ Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told the FBI that he and his brother considered suicide attacks on July 4, but instead decided to strike on Patriots’ day.
♦ Politics and vetting processes mean that Barack Obama has yet to fill some long-empty posts in his cabinet.
♦ Evangelical Christians in California have struck up a debate over whether yoga is a religion or not – where is the line between the body and the soul?
♦ SAYA, a Jerusalem-based design studio, is trying to provide a architectural resolutions to territorial disputes: “you can’t stop terror with just a fence. We need to imagine structures that can build hope instead of fear and resentment.”
♦ When Alex Christodoulou tried to quit his job for life in the Greek public sector, he found the process harder (and more labyrinthine) than he ever thought it could be, especially when the government had committed to taking thousands of workers off the public payroll. “They wanted to rehire him so that they could fire him and include him in the number of public servants being laid off to appease Greece’s international creditors”.
♦ In a review of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Richard Lloyd Parry argues against the idea that North Korea is a “zombie nation”, but wonders if the idea that the country is in a state of “political undeath” doesn’t perhaps suit some other states.
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♦ Ireland’s head of state says the EU must drop its “hegemonic” economic model and reform the ECB, or risk social upheaval and a loss of popular legitimacy.
♦ The Great Tax Race series turns to Ireland, looking at how Ireland has remained attached to aggressive tax policies that favour businesses even as ordinary people have struggled to get by. (If you’re trying to get your head around how all of this even works, watch this handy explainer from Matt Steinglass)
♦ Richard McGregor thinks President Obama needs to circumvent Congress if he wants to get his agenda moving.
♦ Western clothing companies are scrambling to address public concerns over working conditions in Bangladesh – the Walt Disney Company ordered an end to the production of branded merchandise in the country before Rana Plaza collapsed. John Gapper today makes the argument against western companies withdrawing: “Despite everything, the industry provides better-paid jobs than the alternative – working on rural farms – and has helped to emancipate women.”
♦ Despite violence and corruption, Afghan entrepreneurs are still making opportunities for themselves.
♦ The Kremlin is putting pressure on VKontakte, a Russian Facebook clone, pushing CEO Pavel Durov to leave the country.
♦ Slate is publishing a series of excerpts from the memoirs of Mohamedou Oul Slahi who was a prisoner at Guantánamo for nearly 11 years.
♦ Mafia historian goes underground into the bunkers of the Ndrangheta, Europe’s biggest cocaine traffickers and Italy’s most powerful organised crime group.
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Another runner in the Great Tax Race: Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, hopes that recently approved cuts to corporate tax rates will help diversify its economy – following on from a tax incentive measure for the film industry designed to attract more television productions like Breaking Bad.
♦ As the Syrian state pulls back, necessity has forced rebel fighting brigades to take on the role of governing the towns and villages across rural northern Syria.
♦ Chile is embroiled in an embarrassing statistical scandal, casting a cloud over Sebastián Piñera’s final months in office. It seems analysts were right to question how he kept inflation at just 1.5 per cent despite growth of 5.6 per cent.
♦ The US seems to be headed for a manufacturing renaissance.
♦ Since the revolution, Cairo residents have turned to do-it-yourself infrastructure as they grapple with getting about from day to day. The New York Times has photographed the boom in illegal construction.
♦ The New York Times has also profiled Sohel Rana, the most hated man in Bangladesh: “He traveled by motorcycle, as untouchable as a mafia don, trailed by his own biker gang.”
♦ IBM has created the world’s smallest film by manipulating single atoms on a copper surface.
♦ Cash is still king in China, where home buyers make payments in trunks filled with cash and monthly salaries are delivered in armoured cars.
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More on the Great Tax Race
Luxembourg is set to share currently confidential information about multinationals’ bank accounts, showing how much it wants to shed its image as a tax haven at a time of a political and popular backlash against tax avoidance.
♦ One of the biggest hedge fund service businesses on the Cayman Islands has tried to block sweeping reforms to make the tax haven more transparent.
♦ Jeffrey Sachs writes about how austerity has exposed the threat of global tax havens: “In the new world of austerity following the 2008 crash… they are increasingly seen as a cancer on the global financial system that must be excised.”
The rest of the world
Despite Dutch politics being roiled by waves of populist anger and anti-elitism, Willem-Alexander ascends to the throne amid an outpouring of popular enthusiasm – polls show support for preserving the Dutch monarchy running as high as 85 per cent.
♦ President Hamid Karzai acknowledges that the Central Intelligence Agency has been dropping off bags of cash at his office for a decade: “Not a big amount. A small amount, which has been used for various purposes.”
♦ Reuters takes a look through the confidential report prepared for the Cypriot central bank, which found that the Bank of Cyprus had been willing to invest in risky, high-yield Greek debt in its efforts to offset an erosion of its balance sheet from non-performing loans. The report also alleges that 28,000 files, containing emails from a crucial period during which the Bank of Cyprus spent billions of euros buying Greek bonds, were erased before investigators could copy them.
♦ A singer’s lament for Syria, broadcast on “Arab Idol”, has become a hit in the Arab world.
♦ Bangalore, once an advertisement for a new, confident India, is losing some of its sheen.
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♦ In the first installment of our Great Tax Race series, Vanessa Houlder examines how the Netherlands and Luxembourg managed to book more foreign direct investment than the US, UK and Germany together. Exploitation of cracks in the international tax system has ignited intense anger from an austerity-weary public. Matt Steinglass looks at how the Netherlands wants to change its tax haven image, but is wary of scaring businesses away.
♦ Italy has a new government and it has already been met with mayhem.
♦ Just after winning the most votes in Iceland’s parliamentary elections, the head of the centre-right Independence party has said the government needs to focus on restoring growth.
♦ Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks President Obama should keep the Rwandan genocide in mind when weighing up action in Syria.
♦ The 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who was kidnapped by the Tsarnaev brothers describes his harrowing experience. The Boston Globe has also pulled together a timeline of the hunt for the bombing suspects.
♦ William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well”, is still counselling people on the subject at the age of 90. He holds one-to-one sessions with people who read their writing out to him, as he cannot see, and only accepts sandwiches as payment.
♦ Maryam Sharif takes to the street to canvass for her father who is likely to become Pakistan’s PM for a third time: “It’s a beautiful feeling to be loved”.
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Across the world, the ability of multinationals to exploit cracks in the international tax system has angered an austerity-weary public. But as policy makers draw up plans to close such gaps, the spotlight has fallen on the countries that help them pay less tax. Does it really make financial sense for Ireland to have a corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent? Why are some American states looking to cut their corporate tax rates even as they struggle to pay for basic services? Why do countries compete instead of collaborate on tax?

As part of a new Financial Times’ series, the Great Tax Race, the FT’s taxation correspondent Vanessa Houlder was online on The World Blog on Tuesday and answered your questions about tax avoidance. Please see the comments section for her answers.

Here is a sample of some of the pieces in the series: Read more

The Austerity Debate
Europe may have hit the political limits of how far it can go with austerity-led economic policies because of the growing opposition in the eurozone periphery, according to the president of the European Commission.
Tim Harford tells the story of Thomas Herndon, the student who uncovered a mistake in a famous economic paper that has been used to make the case for austerity cuts, and considers what it means for austerity economics.

Italy Deadlock
Choking back tears in his inauguration address, Giorgio Napolitano, who at 87 reluctantly accepted an unprecedented second mandate as Italy’s president, slammed the country’s political parties for their failure to reach agreement and for the “unforgivable” lack of political reforms.
♦ Tony Barber argues that public outrage is not bred only by economic crisis, and that politicians in Italy (and elsewhere in Europe) should get their houses in order.
♦ Italy’s political and economic torpor is epitomised in the ruined and abandoned city of L’Aquila.

Elsewhere
In northwest Pakistan, militants are using bombs as campaigning tactics ahead of the May parliamentary elections.
♦ It’s the UK’s turn to host the G8 and Richard Dowden, director of the Royal Africa Society, wants to know if it will do anything to stop companies avoiding tax in poor countries: “More important than giving aid would be to stop doing bad things to poor countries. The worst thing we – the British – do is to maintain the world’s most iniquitous secret tax havens.”
♦ In the past year, two trillion dollars has not been reported to the IRS because “ordinary Americans have gone underground, and, as the recovery continues to limp along, they seem to be doing it more and more.”
Kidnappings of ordinary Syrians are on the rise as lawlessness spreads.
♦ The byline was borne of a need to make reporters more responsible for what they wrote about the Civil War in the US.
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More on the island rescue

Elsewhere in the world

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