Where have all the tax avoiders gone?

Where have all the tax avoiders gone?

A new holding company created in the Cayman Islands expressly to sell assets worth tens of millions of dollars. Those assets assigned an accounting value of zero, effectively invisible in the company’s balance sheet. An “arbitrary” US$10,000 cash injection explicitly designed to activate a tax law permitting a “total tax free gain of about US$60 million”, calibrated not to affect the “commercial effects of the transaction.”What label should we give…

Eight speculations

Eight speculations

I know, I know: bloggers should resist the urge to speculate about a company’s tax affairs unless they’ve really spent a good long time scouring company registries, reading court cases, talking to people in and outside the company, corresponding with tax directors. Doing their best to review everything that’s in the public domain, and as much of what isn’t as they can get their hands on.I haven’t, it’s fair to…

Corporate tax 2.0?

Corporate tax 2.0?

The report of the Economic Affairs Committee of the UK House of Lords, released over the summer, is the latest in the deluge of parliamentary inquiries into tax avoidance and the integrity of the corporate profit tax. As you’d expect from a committee that includes both Nigel Lawson and Robert Skidelsky, its report is politically provocative (what report on tax can afford not to be these days?) But it’s also…

How to stop the Antonovs?

How to stop the Antonovs?

Another day, another airstrike. Not Syria. Not Afghanistan. Not north-west Pakistan. This is Sudan, whose daisy-chain of low-intensity wars stretching from Darfur in the west to the Nuba Mountains and finally Blue Nile in the east, so supremely economical with column-inches in the international press, makes more high-profile wars look like youngsters. The Syrian civil war may be more brutal day-to-day, but it looks like an amateur at intractability in…

Wars without news

Wars without news

[UPDATE, 2015: Some months after this post was written in December 2012, the war in CAR did get *quite* a lot of news coverage…] So to last week’s big news: on Tuesday two thousand Chadian troops crossed the border into the Central African Republic (CAR) to help fight a new Centrafrican rebel coalition, Seleka, which for the last month has been seizing towns and territory across northern CAR, just over…

Cotton, slavery and UK trade missions

Cotton, slavery and UK trade missions

A straightforward question: why is a UK government department helping promote foreign cotton harvested by slave labour? The Observer reported this weekend that high-street clothing chain H&M is being accused of buying from clothing suppliers that may be using Uzbek cotton. Cotton in Uzbekistan is notorious for being produced under a government-organised labour programme which reportedly sees children taken from school and forced to pick cotton for months at a…

Reading

Reading

In any war there are a thousand things shaping what is happening. Political calculation, displacement, weather, memory and grievance, exchange rates, magic, logistics. On and on, from a refugee’s Western Union transfer to the war song sung by a soldier’s wife. So why do weapons matter in understanding a war? Why look at the instruments of violence when there’s so much else that’s important going on? I’ve spent a lot…

Trade stats and tear gas

Trade stats and tear gas

Why do weapons manufacturers put company logos on their products? You’d think they’d get shy of the bad publicity from their bombs and shells turning up, year in, year out, in TV footage of burnt-out houses and asphyxiated protestors. Or perhaps – whisper it – perhaps it’s actually good publicity. Of a kind. In any case, remember the media scuffle over US-made tear gas being used against demonstrators in Tahrir…

Hedge fund schools

Hedge fund schools

So a new UK school term looms, and another row rages over free schools, selection, the private in the public. I can’t help thinking about this phrase, written on a classroom wall in Sheikh Mader primary school in Hargeisa, Somaliland, which I visited last November: It reads Al-Shitan Al-Ahmar – the Red Devils. Next to it is a Manchester United fantasy football line-up (I especially like the fact that it…