It’s not just Walgreens: The absurd measures corporations will take to dodge taxes

The popular "inversion" scam allows American institutions to game the system. It's unethical -- and unpatriotic

Topics: AlterNet, Corporate welfare, Taxes, tax evasion, ,

It's not just Walgreens: The absurd measures corporations will take to dodge taxes
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet How would you react if one of your neighbors announced that while he obviously benefits from having clean water, highways, Medicare, police protection, parks, schools, and other public services, he was no longer going to pay his part of the taxes that make them available?

And what if this neighbor also said he was renouncing his American citizenship to become a citizen of Switzerland, because he could pay less taxes there? Not that he was actually moving to that cold country, mind you — no, no, he’d still be living right here in the good ol’ USA, still benefitting from all those public services that taxpayers like you and I provide.

Surely, you think, this has to be a joke. A person can’t really do this, can they? No, of course a “real” person could not get away with this You see, corporations are funny creatures. For example, they don’t want to pay their share of America’s tax bill, but then they’re first in line demanding subsidies, grants and other special handouts from America’s government to pad their financial bottom line.

That’s hilarious hypocrisy — but it’s no laughing matter, since it means you and I have to pay more to cover their tax avoidance, while also seeing our public money siphoned out of the programs that we need into the pockets of corporate elites, who most often use the funds against the public interest.

Corporate tax dodging has become both rampant and ridiculous. Take an increasingly popular scam called “inversion,” which is nothing but a perversion of tax law, business ethics and common decency. It works like this: By merging with a corporation based in a country with lax tax laws, a U.S. corporation can reincorporate as a citizen of that country and shift its tax obligations there, even though all or most of its profits are made from sales in the U.S-of-A.

For example, Gregory Wasson of Long Grove, Illinois, announced that he has plans for all of the above. Gregory isn’t my neighbor, but he sounds like a “real” person. So how is he getting away with this scam, you ask? While Greg is not personally my neighbor, or yours, the corporation he heads might be. Wasson is CEO of America’s largest drugstore chain, Walgreens Corporation, the sprawling, $72-billion-a-year behemoth that is in all 50 states and has stores in thousands of neighborhoods all across the country.



But Greg no longer wants Walgreens to be American, so he is presently trying to use this tax-shifting film-flam by merging with a Swiss-based chain. Rather than paying the roughly $800 million a year tax tab it owes to our nation, Walgreens would pay maybe $600 million to Switzerland.

Of course, the stores will not move to Switzerland. Wasson fully intends to keep extracting profits from our neighborhoods and for Walgreens to keep benefiting from all the public services that America provides, from police to infrastructure. Through inversion — a reversal of the natural order — the giant corporation would continue to enjoy enormous profits and benefits it gets from the United States, but pay Swiss taxes. So you and I are left picking up Walgreens’ tab, and the Swiss gain 600 million in tax dollars for services and infrastructure they did not provide — unless you count being a tax shelter as service and infrastructure.

Walgreens’ crass tax ploy would also give it a competitive advantage over other American drug stores that aren’t so greedy as to abandon America and, as Sen. Dick Durbin put it, “move their headquarters for a tax break.”

Oh, one more thing: About a fourth of Walgreens’ annual income is derived from — guess who? — our U.S. government. Yes, our very government that the people of Wasson & Co. say they no longer want to help support. The unpatriotic drugstore ingrate drew nearly $17 billion last year from Medicare and Medicaid payments provided by Uncle Sam.

If Walgreens doesn’t want to support public programs like these, the programs should not be supporting Walgreens.

Jim Hightower's most recent book is "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush." He produces a monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a syndicated daily radio commentary.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...