Turns out our friends who are “in the advertising business” are major tax evaders. The Guardian recently ran a story reporting:
Filings for Facebook Ireland, through which all of the social network’s profits outside the US are channelled, show it paid the Irish tax authority €3.2m (£2.9m) last year.
Facebook is structured so that companies buying advertisements on the website in the UK, or anywhere outside of the US, have to pay Facebook Ireland. This allowed Facebook Ireland to make gross 2011 profits of £840m – or £3.1m per each of its 287 staff. Despite the high gross profit, Facebook Ireland was able to cut its tax bill to just €3.2m by using an accounting technique called the “Double Irish”.
The manoeuvre allows multinationals to move large amounts of money to other subsidiaries in the form of royalty payments. Facebook moved nearly £750m to the Cayman Islands and its Californian parent in licensing and royalty payments. After the transfers, Facebook Ireland reported a £15m annual loss, despite it accounting for 44% of the social network’s $3.15bn (£1.95bn) revenues.
Like Apple and Google, Facebook uses its Irish subsidiary to reduce its liabilities to HM Revenue & Customs and other European tax regimes. Amazon and Starbucks also cut their British tax bills by using the same technique via other European countries.
Business Insider notes that this represents an effective tax rate of 0.3%.
All perfectly legal, of course, in our continuing epoch of [Black] Reaganism.