back to article EU wouldn't! Uncle Sam brandishes 'up to 100%' tariffs over France's Digital Services Tax

The spectre of warehouses full of cheese, champagne and handbags looms over whomever wins the UK's December General Election and has to oversee the country's own upcoming Digital Services Tax, come April 2020. The goods are among the French exports named by the US Trade Representative (USTR) (PDF) as potential targets for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong argument

    I don't have a problem with the US companies paying tax in the US. That's how tax should work.

    What concerns me is their ability to develop monopolies.

    I'd like to see Amazon's UK operations broken up. Amazon Retail, Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Delivery,

    1. markr555

      Re: Wrong argument

      No - US companies should pay tax in the country where profits are earned, simple as that!

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Wrong argument

        Exactly. Multinationals should not be able to evade the costs they impose on the countries where they do business by locating in a friendly country, even if it does use its enormous military to put pressure on everybody else.

        US bullying under Trump has gone from merely unacceptable to intolerable, and it isn't surprising the pushback has started.

        1. SundogUK Bronze badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          What 'costs' are they imposing, that the VAT they pay isn't covering?

          1. robidy

            Re: Wrong argument

            The VAT we pay Amazon (on the rare occasion it's charged) is NOT "paid" by Amazon it's paid by the customer.

            Amazon as a business is obliged to collect it for our UK Gov't same as any other VAT registered entity (by being VAT registered an organisation can avoid paying some VAT).

            1. Jaybus

              Re: Wrong argument

              "he VAT we pay Amazon (on the rare occasion it's charged) is NOT "paid" by Amazon it's paid by the customer."

              Of course. All taxes on businesses are actually paid by the customer, including a DST.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong argument

        That's too simplistic and doesn't work.

        Amazon is a service developed in the US. Even when you buy something in the UK and it is shipped from a UK warehouse, you are using a US service. They can easily split their company into arms, having the UK arm selling stuff at a loss and the US arm making a profit.

        No-one can dictate to Amazon how much their profit is "UK profit" and say how much tax they should pay in the UK. IT's impossible.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          Bollocks. You're telling us Amazon don't know exactly how much income is generated in each country, what the costs are, and therefore what the remaining profit is? Of course they do.

          No international business could operate effectively without knowing income and costs in all operating countries.

          They may pretend that's too hard to figure out, but for a business with their resources it just isn't.

          1. Jim Mitchell

            Re: Wrong argument

            For physical goods, transfer pricing is fairly simple. Intellectual property is harder. Just how much should Starbucks UK pay Daddy Starbucks to license the "Starbucks" name and logo, etc.?

            1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

              Re: Wrong argument

              As Starbucks UK is owned by Starbucks US - the answer is zero. Internal IP transfer pricing should be deemed to be zero - the owning company gets its share in the profits of the owned company. This would eliminate many of the current tax fiddles.

              To avoid other possible fiddles such as overpriced supplies (eg only getting the Starbucks coffee cups from the US and pricing them at £2 each) the local tax authorities should be able to dispute the price of such items and fine the companies 3 times the fiddled tax if they prove their case in court.

              1. Snorlax Silver badge

                Re: Wrong argument

                ” As Starbucks UK is owned by Starbucks US - the answer is zero”

                You may want to ask Apple how they do it. They pay their wholly-owned Irish company ‘Apple Sales International’ royalties on IP

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: Wrong argument

                  "You may want to ask Apple how they do it. They pay their wholly-owned Irish company ‘Apple Sales International’ royalties on IP"

                  The other commentator is saying that the answer should be zero. You should not be allowed to charge for branding at all. I agree with this statement.

                  1. Speltier

                    Re: Wrong argument

                    Yes, totally wrong, and every company in the world does it. For a simple case, suppose a country had a law that said, only 10% profit is allowed. Wow, magically the CEO is payed a bonus equal to anything over 10%... the books are totally cooked. This is an argument for having solely the pair: a consumption tax; and a gross wealth tax. There is precious little reason for anyone to be sitting on a pile of billions of euros, and taking the politician beloved tax monkey out of corporations will at least change the market distortions. Finally, when you come down to it, the only source of wealth is the labor of individual workers (Marx was heading in the right direction but went off the rails into communism, which simply won't work with devious primates).

                    1. SundogUK Bronze badge

                      Re: Wrong argument

                      "the only source of wealth is the labor of individual workers" I cannot believe cretins still believe this shit. It has been so comprehensively disproved it's not even funny any more.

                      1. BlueTemplar

                        Re: Wrong argument

                        Why not ? (If you classify managers and such as "workers" too...)

                  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: Wrong argument

                    "You should not be allowed to charge for branding at all"

                    What about franchises? The branding, and IP as a whole, might be the main or even only thing that the franchisor charges for?

                    I doubt it would be an insuperable problem but needs to be taken into consideration.

                    1. DavCrav Silver badge

                      Re: Wrong argument

                      "What about franchises? The branding, and IP as a whole, might be the main or even only thing that the franchisor charges for?"

                      That's a good question. If the franchise is simply a name, and literally everything else is bought by the franchisee from other locations, then I would fail to see how this is even a business. If the franchise includes standards, etc., then they could charge for assessing those.

                      But indeed, I don't see why a franchise should be able to suck lots of money off the franchisee. They could apportion a cost for current advertising, in essence transferring some local costs onto the franchisee.

                      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                        Re: Wrong argument

                        Let's consider a possible example. At some point the US CLOUD Act is going to raise problems with GDPR because any US corporation is vulnerable. One way round it would be for those US corporation would be to go hands-off and allow European companies to run European bit-barns using the corporation's IP including branding. It could be a purely IP-based operation.

                        1. DavCrav Silver badge

                          Re: Wrong argument

                          I would have thought that using the company's branding would make enough of a connection for the CLOUD Act, but IANAL.

                          But if this is the case, then the European company has the cost of doing all of the work. The US company is providing patents, which will be licensed. If the two are genuinely at arm's length then the European company will refuse to pay ridiculous amounts for that IP. If it does, that's proof that they aren't at arm's length, and CLOUD comes back into play.

                          At no point do I think the branding, which by now might actually be a negative given the scenario, is worth anything. MS software is (apparently) worth something, but if you have bought the software that should include the ability to say that you run it.

              2. big_D Silver badge

                Re: Wrong argument

                But it isn't the US and the UK both pay Starbucks (probably) Cayman Islands, Bermuda, BVI etc. through the nose for the IP rights, meaning they don't make much profit anywhere where they have to pay tax.

                Google does this to great effect, for example.

              3. SundogUK Bronze badge

                Re: Wrong argument

                The law explicitly says that is not true. Don't like it? Change the law.

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: Wrong argument

                  "The law explicitly says that is not true. Don't like it? Change the law."

                  Other people also get to vote. And they can be bought off. But it's usually cheaper to buy off people once elected, or buy off the President of a large country to threaten your country if they suggest changing the law.

              4. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: Wrong argument

                Internal IP transfer pricing should be deemed to be zero - the owning company gets its share in the profits of the owned company.

                I can sort of see where you're going with that, but it just isn't how international trade works in any industry or any country.

                What would happen is that a 3rd company would be set up to own the IP in an out and out tax haven, and it would be licenced to whomever wants to use it in an exclusive arrangement per legal jurisdiction. The costs of such licencing would become astronomical - I can sell a lot more coffee in any given country if I brand it "Starbucks" rather than "Lucreffeine (C)", and the IP transfer would shift from being around 2 or 3% that Starbucks currently use, to 30-50% of revenue, perhaps more. As it'd be the same coffee but my sales would be around 100x the amount, you could create a reasonable argument that 99% of the sales were only due to the brand and therefore charge most of the revenue to IP.

                I get that you don't want international law and commerce to work this way, but it always has, and it probably always will. Look at it in the reverse - all that branding and IP may be generated in the UK, but the head office may be in the USA. Given your proposal, all of the tax would be paid in the USA under current law, despite the IP being British. I'm not clear that is what you intend.

                International taxation is complicated, perhaps more so than it strictly needs to be, but this is because competing governments have different world views and different priorities. They produce laws entirely independent of each other and with scant if any regard for the impact on other nations. This is the root of the problem you perceive, not the companies using that law and those tax treaties to the best of their ability for their primary stakeholders (shareholders, and employees).

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: Wrong argument

                  "all that branding and IP may be generated in the UK, but the head office may be in the USA."

                  That's fair. Just because John Smith invents something in the UK for GloboMegaCorp, I fail to see why the UK branch of GMC should have all the benefits of it. I especially don't see why that IP can then be handed over to GMC Cayman who then can license it back to GMC UK. If the IP is really worth that much, GMC Cayman should be paying GMC UK an astronomical fee for that.

                  If I give a second house to my son, I am charged CGT as if I sold it at market rate. So charge Corporation Tax to GMC UK as if it had sold this IP on the open market, so something like ten times the total global revenue earned from it.

                  1. LucreLout Silver badge

                    Re: Wrong argument

                    "all that branding and IP may be generated in the UK, but the head office may be in the USA."

                    That's fair.

                    I'm confused, or you are.

                    If the IP is generated in the UK under contract to an offshore entity as a product of work (UK design agency, Caymans company buying a logo) then who owns the IP? It has to be the latter because they're the client.

                    If something owned elsewhere is sold to a company in another country then that country own the IP going forward, so international sales would never be possible.

                    "Fair" isn't a useful word, its an emotive one. Fair means different things to different people. Some people think its "fair" that we have an ever increasing percentage of tax due the higher amount of money you earn. Others think its "fair" that we have a flat tax so everyone pays the same percentage thereby not penalizing success. Still others think it's "fair" that everyone pay the same amount of tax in pounds earned because everyone then has the same stake in the efficiency and scale of services provided for taxes raised. "Fair" doesn't really mean anything I'm afraid.

                    I especially don't see why that IP can then be handed over to GMC Cayman who then can license it back to GMC UK.

                    You don't see it because you're getting hung up on an emotional aspect of the tax treatment, rather than looking at the international trade component of it. Rather than have potentially 100s of dispersed legal entities cross paying or licencing IP from each other, and trying to handle 100s of different legal and tax treatments for each different piece of IP and royalties from it, it's much simpler to stay within the law by moving all the IP to one location, and its commercial sense to make that location somewhere low tax for IP purposes.

                    (Much the same as the famous band with their own hedge fund in Holland that manage their IP and royalty payments).

                    There's no imperative either moral, economic, or legal that mandates a person or entity to structure their affairs such that the maximum amount of tax is due - common sense dictates they structure it so the minimum amount is due. I think it was Lord Justice Hand that made this point? Could be wrong.

                    If I give a second house to my son, I am charged CGT as if I sold it at market rate.

                    No you're not. You can gift him whatever you like completely free of tax provided you survive for 7 years after the gift is given.

                    https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax/gifts

                    So charge Corporation Tax to GMC UK as if it had sold this IP on the open market, so something like ten times the total global revenue earned from it

                    Any charges against the local entity will reduce its taxable profit because it will make less profit due to the accounting charge. That will make the situation what you;d perceive as worse, not better, as they'd pay less tax.

                2. BlueTemplar

                  Re: Wrong argument

                  "Always" is a very long time. For instance at some point some countries might just decide to forbid doing commerce with countries classified as tax havens - in fact if I'm not mistaken the EU already has various penalties against tax havens, though their definition of "tax haven" seems to be very forgiving...

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Wrong argument

                    "in fact if I'm not mistaken the EU already has various penalties against tax havens, though their definition of "tax haven" seems to be very forgiving..."

                    The EU is happy to blacklist foreign tax havens but quite happy to tolerate its own (Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus).

                    While there are differences in what is tolerated and what is not, if Starbucks (for instance) was still paying tax in the Netherlands rather than having relocated its EU HQ to the UK after the initial outcry around how little UK tax it was paying (https://www.ft.com/content/4d85c99c-bb44-11e8-8274-55b72926558f) it would be worth pointing out. Instead we have Apple, Amazon etc to point to instead.

                    1. BlueTemplar

                      Re: Wrong argument

                      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2019/12/03/us_threatens_retaliation_in_french_digital_tax_spat/#c_3930211

              5. maffski

                Re: Wrong argument

                'As Starbucks UK is owned by Starbucks US - the answer is zero. Internal IP transfer pricing should be deemed to be zero'

                I don't know about the US but the UK comes under EU law, which means it must apply internal transfer pricing and that pricing must be in line with the costs that would be incurred if the licence were held by a 3rd party.

                The EU did fine Starbucks over it's transfer pricing, and Starbucks won on appeal.

          2. Bbuckley

            Re: Wrong argument

            So what! Why should any company (US or otherwise based) pay bullshit tax from residents who buy stuff from their country-independent internet channel? Get lost socialist French frogs IMO and f**k off socialist governments of muck - the people are freed of the muck they stand on when they buy from a non-government-organisation (NGO). What will be the 'tax system' when the Human race leaves this shitty planet and it's monkey laws?

        2. BinkyTheHorse
          Angel

          Re: Wrong argument

          [...] Amazon is a service developed in the US. Even when you buy something in the UK and it is shipped from a UK warehouse, you are using a US service. [...]

          And if you buy French cheese, the process could be construed a trivial service, where, for an X one-time payment, you get M days worth of cheese.

          That cheese provisioning service is undoubtedly "developed in France", correct? So, by that logic, imposing tariffs for its import is "too simplistic and doesn't work"?

          One could even make the same argument about "splitting the company" w.r.t. shipping.

        3. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          "No-one can dictate to Amazon how much their profit is "UK profit" and say how much tax they should pay in the UK. IT's impossible."

          I'm pretty sure that, with the right changes in the law to stop payments for brand and licences and other bullshit, I can indeed dictate it.

          1. SundogUK Bronze badge

            Re: Wrong argument

            No you can't. There are international agreements in place covering all this and you will not like the consequences of breaking them.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Wrong argument

              "There are international agreements in place covering all this and you will not like the consequences of breaking them."

              Ah, so in other words, companies have managed to rig the system so they literally cannot be taxed. OK, sounds like I need to start sending people to jail/backs against the wall until the system unrigs it and suddenly I can do such things.

            2. BlueTemplar

              Re: Wrong argument

              These won't last forever. And one country breaking them might cause a landslide...

        4. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          That is the problem, the US doesn't make a profit, it goes offshore to a tax paradise.

          The same for Europe, either to Luxembourg, where it pays naff-all or Ireland, where it gets good subsidies. They even get around sales tax for a large part of the business. The EU are trying to change that, so that the sales tax is paid in the country where the buyer is located, which seems fair.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Wrong argument

            In that case the US has identical interests to all the other countries.

      3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

        Re: Wrong argument

        No - US companies should pay THE CORRECT tax in the country where profits are earned, simple as that!

        FTFY

        Corporate America Is Repatriating a Fraction of Foreign Profits

        companies kept much of their overseas profit offshore to avoid a 35% tax that kicked in when they brought the money back to the U.S. The Republican tax law set a one-time 15.5% tax rate on cash

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          "companies kept much of their overseas profit offshore to avoid a 35% tax that kicked in when they brought the money back to the U.S. The Republican tax law set a one-time 15.5% tax rate on cash"

          Yes, but they also aren't keeping it in the countries where it' was earned. It goes and suns itsself in Bermuda and BVI.

      4. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: Wrong argument

        All companies should pay tax in the country where profits are earned. Except if they try hard enough, they can move that earning around the world in such a way that they end up paying nothing, and that's not right.

      5. veti Silver badge

        Re: Wrong argument

        Quite. They should pay sales tax on what they sell there, income tax and national insurance taxes for people they employ there...

        Oh, wait a minute - they do pay all that. So let's not be too quick to drive them away.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          Sorry, my income tax and other taxes are paid by me with the money I earned working for a company - the same money which are taxed and with which I pay taxes - even if to avoid employees evade taxes too at company scales, many systems requires the employer takes the money from the employees and sends the employee's money to the revenues service directly.

          They are in no way company money they are wholly part of my salary, and by the way, they are operating costs a company pays no taxes over.

          If income taxes disappear (or simply reduced), the company is still obliged to give all those money to me, they wouldn't be able to keep them - as they are no longer their money.

          But we can also design a system where the buyer pays a company income taxes directly, at each sale... it would be exactly the same system used to pay employees' taxes.

          They won't be drive away because they will be making billions still. I can't see Amazon & C. making big money in Bangladesh or Groenland.

        2. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          "They should pay sales tax on what they sell there, income tax and national insurance taxes for people they employ there...

          Oh, wait a minute - they do pay all that. So let's not be too quick to drive them away."

          If I want to buy something and Amazon has been driven away, I will still buy it.

      6. julian_n

        Re: Wrong argument

        That is not how the EU single market works. A company in one EU/EEA country can sell into any other with the profits taxed in the home (normally Ireland or Luxembourg) country.

        What the article fails to point out is that the UK can stop this after Brexit when no longer part of the Single Market - should that be what it chooses. Make any country trading in UK have a UK subsidiary where appropriate taxes are paid.

        What France is attempting smacks of double taxation - I am surprised the EU has allowed it.

        There will still, of course, be all the other fiddles they get up to - like licencing image rights at an inflated price.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          Yes.

          It is very hard to write laws that let smaller/mid-sized companies enjoy the benefits of a larger market without the requirement of setting up offices everywhere without at the same time having large companies taking advantage of "Irish Solutions".

          We are in a corner of Europe where a lot of stuff is not locally available and have benefitted from the inner market in that respect - chicke coops from the UK for example.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "What France is attempting smacks of double taxation"

          No, of course after they had paid taxes in EU they should not pay them in US...

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Wrong argument

          "A company in one EU/EEA country can sell into any other with the profits taxed in the home (normally Ireland or Luxembourg) country."

          That's corporation tax. Other taxes such as VAT are locally collected and determined. Presumably that's the mechanism that the French use.

        4. BlueTemplar

          Re: Wrong argument

          EU original founders (France+Germany) are pushing for a EU-wide tax harmonization :

          https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-france-tax-harmonisation-idUSKBN1JG1RB

          If this works out, eventually the Single Market will also be a Single Tax System - IMHO, as it should be, as the current system can be gamed too easily.

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Wrong argument

      Personally I would like to see the entire FATIMA* tax evasion system put to the magnifying glass. It is well beyond time that HMRC descended en masse on Stockley Park (Apple) and fhe various UK offices of the others.

      *Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Intel, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google).

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Wrong argument

        "Personally I would like to see the entire [Twitter] tax evasion system put to the magnifying glass."

        Presumably the magnifying glass is needed to find Twitter's profit?

  2. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

    US labour laws = unfair competition

    The only reason why US companies have been able to dominate is due to their lax labour laws and the strongarm of the US govt.

    The US govt can start complaining once they ensure all US employees have a mandatory minimum of 20 paid holidays, paid pregnancy leave, paid sick leave, affordable (public) healthcare and a living wage.

    Europe should have put tarrifs on US services several decades ago already. Stiffing US employees has given US companies a huge financial advantage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

      >The only reason why US companies have been able to dominate is due to their lax labour laws and the strongarm of the US govt

      I think you might want to ask the low cost manufacturing countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and so on about their (non existent) labour laws and working conditions before you start with the US.

      1. IGotOut

        Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

        Are those the same countries that Trump is also threating with tarrifs?

        The US is a new colonial power. They exploit cheap labour and goods, but when they are strong enough to stand on their own two feet, they want to slap them back down.

      2. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

        Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

        You mean those countries to where US companies are outsourcing all jobs to if US employees become too uppity or if they can make a few cents of profit more.

        Aside from the whataboutery here, just because US companies are looking for a 'disposable' workforce somewhere else, doesn't mean that the problem is with the 'somewhere else'. It's not as if India or China are holding a gun to US company's heads forcing them to outsource.

      3. Reg Reader 1

        Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

        It is well past time for tariffs on any country that doesn't provide equal pay, benefits and healthcare equal to those of Europe/ Canada etc. The developed economies are being bled dry by globalization that bought by Corporations through who I can only assume were dirty politicians.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

        Sounds like a good plan, would certainly improve the economies of the west bringing all those jobs back here and put a lot more money in people's pockets vs working 4 hours every other week for deliveroo or whatever...

        Outsourcing is a cancer that should have been excised years ago, ditto for open door immigration like Bliar's lot did right after the Dotcom bubble burst, allowing in a deluge of workers from SE Asia on "intra company transfers" i.e. SE Asian wages while working in the UK, depressing wages and removing entry level positions, thus denying many an initial foothold in the sector, where's it left us? 50+% of graduates now in NON graduate level work (and much of it with inflated job titles and requirements, heck a local university wanted an admin assistant (job that used to go to a school leaver or FE college student at most) demanding a good honours or masters degree, 5 to 15 years experience and AMAZING organisational skills, OUTSTANDING work ethic and EXCEPTIONAL team working abilities - the offered salary.......£16K to £19K per annum....

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

          "50+% of graduates now in NON graduate level work"

          That was inevitable as soon as Blair decided that he wanted 50% of youngsters to go to University. There were never going to be that proportion of jobs at graduate level but it reduced youth unemployment figures and, as was the principle of all Blair/Brown financial shenanigans, hid the immediate costs by deferring them to future decades, in this case by student loans.

          1. Reg Reader 1

            Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

            not only is that too many people in University but Universities are expected to graduate a huge number of those which then causes lower standards to pass enough people to meet the goals and for the University to acquire enough money to continue to run. My ex marked papers for a professor of hers. It was a second year course. many of the papers looked like they were written, printed and hardly legible, by a grade 7 or 8 student and she was expected to give many of those a passing grade. As a side note, I've met some foreign students who have Canadian University degrees and can hardly write in English, but that makes sense given my previous sentence. Of course, I've also met foreign students who were absolutely brilliant, but for Canadian Universities foreign student fees are a huge boon to their finances, so many pass who shouldn't, just like Canadian graduates.

            In Canada, there is not enough money to run our primary and secondary schools properly, let alone fund higher education. Actually, as per our GDP there should be lots, but tax laws having been bought by corporations there isn't. That trend really got started in the 1980s.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

            That was inevitable as soon as Blair decided that he wanted 50% of youngsters to go to University

            And the Universities obliged by generating all sorts of vanity degrees that had no real-world application..

            I hope that prospective students are now savvy enough to look at the post-degree employment stats for their chosen degree *before* they start generating huge costs for themselves that they'll be paying back over the next 25 years of employment..

          3. BlueTemplar

            Re: US labour laws = unfair competition

            I think that you're deluded that a University is even supposed to provide job training...*

            (Only the company can really do that, not surprising that the last University semester is generally spent in an internship...)

            *well except for PhD's of course, where at least some of the students are expected to become researchers themselves.

  3. gerdesj Silver badge
    Gimp

    A bit closer to home

    Ms Sturgeon will probably keep quiet about this aspect of EU membership:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-50054964

    1. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: A bit closer to home

      In Scotland, somebody making a stupid comment like that would be called a numpty.

      In response to increased US tariffs on a product such as whiskey, I’d expect whiskey producers to develop other markets instead of sitting and waiting for the wind to change.

      Any reason you picked whiskey? Scotland has plenty of other exports which dwarf whiskey in terms of revenue.

      Oil for example.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: A bit closer to home

        Scotland's exports of whiskey are zero. Ireland has lots of whiskey exports.

        Scotland exports whisky.

    2. defiler Silver badge

      Re: A bit closer to home

      Here's the thing. As part of the EU, the UK (or indeed Scotland) can play tit-for-tat with anyone and everyone on any tariff they choose.

      UK or Scotland going it alone pretty much has to suck it up, tug the forelock and hand over the goodies. And that's because outside of the biggest trading bloc in the world we're simply not strong enough to tell the market to awa' and bile yer heid.

      It fascinates me how many people don't get that.

      1. SundogUK Bronze badge

        Re: A bit closer to home

        We're the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world you cretin.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: A bit closer to home

          Maybe so, but we are still only 15% the size of the US economy, whereas the EU is about the same size* as them. Who do you think has the greater bargaining power?

          * US $22tn, EU $19tn, UK $3tn

        2. Vehlin

          Re: A bit closer to home

          That doesn't really show how big the US and Chinese economies are by comparison. America could split into 4 and China into 3 and they'd still be the top 7 Economies in the world (We'd be 10th)

        3. defiler Silver badge

          Re: A bit closer to home

          As others have said, Sundog, being the 5th or 6th biggest is no use when you have to deal with the biggest. If you're on level-pegging with them then there's a quid-pro-quo. If they're 10x the size of you then they impose their will.

          Scale that down if you will, and maybe we want to deal directly with Mexco - get some tequila in. Sure, by ourselves there's a reasonable option for coming up with a fair deal where both sides are balanced, but (if I may be selfish for a moment) right now we're negotiating from the position of the leviathan. We don't need to put up with anything from a market the size of Mexico that we don't want to. So whilst we could strike a fair deal with them by ourselves, right now we could strike a deal heavily in our favour. So in that event, costs go up, standards go down, or some mix of the two.

          No offence to Mexico - I just picked a country with a similar GDP to the UK.

          And if you want to say we're the "5th or 6th largest economy", pick one and back it up. My evidence says the 9th, and one of the 8 above us is another EU member.

          https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/208rank.html

          Here we can see that the EU is the second biggest after China (10% below, with the USA 10% below that). India, in fourth, is half the size of the US economy. These numbers are pretty close to the CIA ones, so they should be fairly representative of fact.

          The UK on that scale is <15% of the USA. If you think we can argue on a level playing field there, you're deluded by the history of Empire.

          And if your first kneejerk is to call someone a cretin, bring evidence or fuck off home, you fucking melt. I'm so fucking tired of having this argument with people who seem to think that "belief" is a fungible currency when it comes to trade negotiations, or that the world owes us a favour because we used to own half of it...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a bit rich coming from the French being next to the extremely high taxing locations of Monaco, Switzerland and Luxembourg where French nationals go to pay their extra taxes.

    Perhaps the Irish PM and former head of EU commission and former PM of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, could shed some light on why their respective countries also tax the bollocks out of companies far beyond that which is reasonable ?

    1. bpfh Silver badge

      Pot kettle black?

      So just like the UK with Jersey and the Isle of Man then?

    2. Snorlax Silver badge

      @AC

      "Perhaps the Irish PM and former head of EU commission and former PM of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, could shed some light on why their respective countries also tax the bollocks out of companies far beyond that which is reasonable ?"

      Irish corporation tax rate is 12.5% How is that taxing "the bollocks out of companies far beyond that which is reasonable"?

      You obviously don't know much about tax.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: @AC

        Given Apple's revenue in Ireland is allegedly half of that country's GDP, yeah, they're booking profits and paying tax in Ireland well beyond what is reasonable.

        That revenue and the associated profits should be recognised where the actual sales are made, and the taxes paid there instead.

        Disclaimer: I do know something about tax.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC

        >Irish corporation tax rate is 12.5% How is that taxing "the bollocks out of companies far beyond that which is reasonable"? You obviously don't know much about tax.

        Is your name Drax The Destroyer and can only read things literally ?

        Anyhow if you get the right deal from the Irish gov, it can be 0% until you get caught out.

        1. Snorlax Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: @AC

          "Perhaps the Irish PM and former head of EU commission and former PM of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, could shed some light on why their respective countries also tax the bollocks out of companies far beyond that which is reasonable ?"

          That's your original comment. How is it intended to be read?

          Or did you mean that the Irish PM, the former head of EU commission, the former PM of Luxembourg, and Jean-Claude Juncker are one and the same person? Commas are important.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Meh

    Blustery weather, wind is blowing harder

    Must be coming up on election time. It's sad that the front runners have to attack some "enemy \ evil force" instead of focusing on sane government and doing the right thing.

  6. WolfFan Silver badge

    Be a true friend

    Keep him. Or export him to France. Just don't let him back across the Atlantic. Please.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Be a true friend

      We don't want him either. How about we send him on his way but nobody lets him back in? He can stay in mid-Atlantic for good.

  7. Glen 1 Silver badge

    This, in a nutshell, is why the collective bargaining power of the EU is so important.

    France is being singled out in this case, but having tarrifs imposed across the world's largest trading block would certainly have Trump (well, the people advising him), taking a more conciliatory tone.

    1. julian_n

      Nope. The EU will let France take the hit - especially as the French Tax may run against EU Laws. The bottom line is that US tariffs hang over the German automobile manufacturers like a sword of Damocles.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >The EU will let France take the hit

        That may happen, but don't expect the EU to meekly acquiesce and roll over just as BoJo has done with his revised WA [As we now know, thanks to the Labour disclosures, the BoJo WA fully takes into account US preconditions and demands for a potential post-Brexit US-UK trade agreement...].

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        >especially as the French Tax may run against EU Laws. The bottom line is that US tariffs hang over the German automobile manufacturers

        But also remember that BoJo has said (if re-elected) he would impose a similar tax in the UK, so much of Trumps complaint about France is about discouraging other countries (such as th UK) following the French.

    2. Reg Reader 1

      Instead of targeting the US with tariffs I'd like to see countries confiscate all Trump foreign properties and bank accounts as proceeds of crime? 'cause let's face it that how Trump rolls and roles.

  8. Khaptain Silver badge

    Shut down the Gafas

    See title, watch trump scuttle away

  9. randon8154

    Retour de bâton

    I would have in other circumstances, take a stand against this, but the French president sold himself to China last month for more than 13 billions, without giving a damn about the situation in Hong Kong.

    https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/human-rights/events/article/human-rights-france-s-international-strategy-10-12-18

    "stepping up the fight for the universality of civil and political rights." <--- Yeah right...

    "No - US companies should pay tax in the country where profits are earned, simple as that!"

    Agree nothing to add. As much it is wrong , France got what it deserve however.

  10. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Isn't Trump's retaliation a little 'cheesy'? Oh, don't 'wine' about it !!!!!!

    1. bpfh Silver badge
      Boffin

      I see what you did there

      Hee haw hee haw hee haw!

  11. Snorlax Silver badge
    Devil

    Big Donnie...

    ...swinging his dick around again.

    So that’s Brazil, Argentina and the EU he’s threatened with tariffs in the last 48 hours.

    What a sad little man. Have any of his previous tariff threats amounted to anything?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Apparently, they have amounted to an additional cost of $500 to $1700 per year per US household.

      I'm sure US households will have no problem dealing with that additional charge.

      1. Snorlax Silver badge
        Happy

        "Apparently, they have amounted to an additional cost of $500 to $1700 per year per US household."

        The unintended result of increasing tariffs: his own people pay more for imported goods.

        Strange how that works, isn't it? You'd think somebody would explain it to him.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Explaining it his electorate would be more effective.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          his own people pay more for imported goods.

          And, even worse, the retaliatory tariffs mean that large segments of the US farming indusrty are staring bankruptcy in the face because their previous biggest market (China) is no longer buying their crop.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Big Donnie...

      Just wait he sees the increased Champagne prices in his hotels... "wait, you say me Champagne is not made in Louisiana????!!!!!"

      1. Snorlax Silver badge

        Re: Big Donnie...

        "Just wait he sees the increased Champagne prices in his hotels... "wait, you say me Champagne is not made in Louisiana????!!!!!""

        Close. His sparkling wine comes from the vineyards of Charlottesville, Virginia.

  12. el kabong Silver badge

    To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

    Seeing that same fellow hold the **highest** position of power in a country formerly regarded as not-a-shithole country it just boggles the mind.

    The USA, formerly considered by many as the ultimate example of not-a-shithole country performs a U-turn, transitions to half full shitholeliness in record time. Bravo!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

      But next year we will have an election with the possibility of replacing that leadership. Unfortunately, neither party has presented a candidate that is really any better than the current occupant - all of the competition just makes empty promises, wants to spend other people's money, or wants to trade remaining civil rights for the illusion of security - same #$#$ different day.

      Remember, Trump didn't get elected because people liked him. He got elected because people hated him less than they hated Clinton.

      1. Roo
        Windows

        Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

        "He got elected because people hated him less than they hated Clinton."

        OTOH Trump was hated by 3 million more people than Hillary was.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

          3 million more Democrat voters in highly concentrated Democrat-leaning areas of the country, where the "get out the vote" programs were hugely successful but otherwise meaningless to the election because presidents are not elected by popular vote. Even with those extra 3 million votes, Clinton got less an a third of the voting-age citizens to vote for her.

          If you look at the maps of the country by AREA, you would see that Trump won more square miles of land by a landslide.

          Neither is a meaningful metric, as the only thing that matters is the electoral vote. Trying to treat a federal republic as a pure democracy lost Hillary Clinton the election, and now we suffer for it.

          1. BlueTemplar

            Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

            "square miles of land", seriously ?

          2. Roo
            Gimp

            Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

            So people's votes don't count if you don't like their choice, but the vote of a square mile of land counts as it voted the way you wanted it to. Hope you enjoy your Monarchy, the Gimp suit is for you and your Monarch's enjoyment.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: To see such a regrettable fellow holding a position of power is normal in a shithole country

        Nonsense. Both parties have shown several candidates, the worst of whom would be much better and most of them infinitely better than Trump. The catch is that none of them has anything like his ruthlessness, so they may well not be able to beat him.

        But "better" is simply an unreasonably low bar to set. A random person drawn by lottery from the membership of the Ku Klux Klan would be better than Trump.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's time to call Big Donny out

    His bluster is becoming thinner and thinner.

    Time to call his bluff, he has nothing.

  14. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    Deja vu

    "Freedom Fries" are back!

  15. 2Blockchainz

    Asian export markets

    Perhaps the French would be able to find buyers of luxury goods in certain APAC markets with populations of 1.600+M who consume copies numbers of Fendi purses, Krug Champagne, Truffles, etc.

    I just don't know of any countries which fit the description.

    1. julian_n

      Re: Asian export markets

      Nice freudian slip there - I guess you meant copious. But copies actually fits the Chinese model better - and the profits on the copies stays in China

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Asian export markets

      You believe rich American will stop to buy expensive show-off goods just because of the tariffs? Sure, some less rich wannabes will be driven away, but the expensive stuff won't suffer much. The less expensive goods may suffer though.

      BTW: Fendi is Italian although owned by the French LVMH group.

  16. Draco
    Holmes

    How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

    As I understand the main gripe is that governments only get VAT off "digital services" and no corporate tax because the actual digital service / product is produced elsewhere.

    From what I understand of the GAFA tax is that it wants 3% of the "profit" - which, I presume, is the sale price. It's fine if it was a 3% VAT surcharge on digital services / products that is applied across the board, but, it is not, it is only being applied to companies that have greater than 750 million euros in global digital sales and at least 25 million in French digital sales.

    France already has 4 different VAT Rates:

    20 percent: standard rate

    10 percent: restaurants, transport, renovation/improvement works and certain medical drugs

    5.5 percent: food, water and non alcoholic beverages, books, special equipment for the disabled and school canteens, some entertainment events and some domestic personal services.

    2.1 percent: Special rate - applies to medical drugs reimbursed by the French social security. TV licences, the sale of live animals, press publications and certain entertainment events.

    So why not have an across the board 23 percent for digital serices?

    1. Sanguma
      Coat

      Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

      "the sale of live animals" ... hmmm ... does that include politicians? Is there a special tax rate for the brown envelopes?

      (I'm ducking out. I may be gone for some time.)

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

      VAT is paid entirely by the end buyer - not by the company. The company just collect it, deducts any deductible VAT, and sends the difference to the revenues service. Increasing VAT would only increase the taxation on the end buyer.

      The proposed French tax will be paid by the seller - not by the buyer. It's very different.

      Sure, a company could increase prices to offset the tax - but that in turn could make prices less competitive and reduce sales.

      1. SundogUK Bronze badge

        Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

        "The proposed French tax will be paid by the seller - not by the buyer. It's very different."

        The proposed French tax will be paid by the buyer, when prices are raised to cover the tax. This is what always happens and always will.

        1. dgeb

          Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

          "..when prices are raised to cover the tax"

          If the market will bear the increased price, they should have been charging it already. To the end consumer, what matters is the gross cost (consider how non-VAT-registered micro-traders compete on price), or consider how many prices stayed the same when the UK rate went down from 17.5% to 15% and then up to 20%.

          So a sales tax is overwhelmingly coming out of potential profit margin.

          1. Jaybus

            Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

            "If the market will bear the increased price, they should have been charging it already."

            No. Competition and other market forces set the price. Adding or increasing a tax forces an increase in consumer cost, and while it is possible, but not certain or known, that the market may bear the price increase, it is absolutely not true that they should have been charging it already. In fact, the only way they could have been charging it already is if the competitors were in collusion, as in the case of trusts and monopolies.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "This is what always happens and always will."

          No, because companies are not stupid and try to understand the impact of price raises over sales, revenues, and profits. If the price raises impact sales so much the profits goes down more than the additional tax they have to pay, they won't increase prices, or increase them only partially. Also, a price increase may make you less competitive and steer buyers towards your competitors.

          BTW, even a VAT increase may impact sales. Italy in the past months did whatever it could to avoid to increase VAT from 22% to 25-26% - and all business associations were, and are, very worried about any increase because they know their sales will go down.

          You should try to run a company, even a small one, to understand you may not be free to raise the prices as much as you can, unless, of course you have a monopoly over goods people can't do without.

      2. Draco
        Windows

        Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

        I understand the distinction between VAT and taxing the profits of the company. There are two problems:

        (1) It is clear that these companies have a corporate presence in France (and other countries), but they pay a pittance (if any) corporate tax because they are run at near break even costs. I saw this happening more than 30 years ago, when I worked for an AEG subsidiary in a non-European country: the subsidiary purchased components from AEG Germany at inflated costs - so the parent company made money, while the subsidiary “struggled”. The GAFA tax is, effectively, the same as the country with the AEG subsidiary telling AEG Germany, “Hey, we want 3% of the profit you made on the sale to the subsidiary”. I agree that this type of money shuffling is a serious problem and I am not sure how you can resolve that. Ban global corporations? Ban Ban direct sales between companies in different countries and insist all transactions must go through an independent broker? So AEG would sell to a broker in a different country and the broker then gets to sell the product to whomever they want inside the country?

        (2) How do you tax the profits of a company that ships a good that is not manufactured in your country? Consider: I live in Freedonia, publish books which I sell to France. I don’t use any French resources, but Fredonian paper sourced from Freedonian trees, Freedonian ink sourced from Freedonian squid, etc. But French people are happy to buy my books, send their money my way. I make good profits. I then decide to provide my books electronically – more profits for me since I have to spend less on physical resources, physical handling (shipping, packaging, etc). How can France tax that? They can’t. Unless they impose some sort of duty or tariff – which is what the GAFA, in essence, is.

        So, while the GAFA is a tax on the corporation, effectively, it looks like and acts like an additional 3% VAT.

        1. BlueTemplar

          Re: How about politicians make simpler tax codes / laws?

          Well, since transnational corporations are basically a threat to the sovereignty of non-home countries, yes this seems to be a good idea to me !

  17. Sanguma

    Drum the drums for Ubu!

    Isn't it wonderful?!? Pere Ubu, Ubu Roi himself, has been confirmed as Life President of the United States of America!!!

    Come let's celebrate and drum the drums for Ubu!

  18. Lee D Silver badge

    So your solution to "we have to pay a bit more money when our French-operating companies see French people pay them" is "We're going to make every American pay for any French product twice".

    I... can't really see that working. I mean, I get the tit-for-tat economics, but that's just stupid.

  19. sbt Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Americans like their cheese like they like their leaders; orange and bland.

    I'm just not sure how worried the Roquefort makers should be. How much can they be selling in the land where cheese ships in a can?

    I love Paris. -->

  20. codejunky Silver badge

    Meh

    It is somewhat amusing to watch the spat between the upstart French president and the US. Macrons dreams of an EU army and his opinions on NATO and now his attacks on successful global businesses from the US and of course Trumps comments and threats causing the PM to run to the EU (like the EU ran to the US over Russia).

    Its like watching the little monkey poking the big one and running away when the big one starts to retaliate.

  21. naive

    Poor America

    Imagine that, no more French food and nice things, only cheap crap made in Ch*n% remains.

    The land of the free only living on greasy and tasteless food covered in dark yellow fake cheese, gobbled down with Champagne Americain (Coca cola).

    The only wine available is this characterless Californian "Chardonnay" slobber, that is not made to have taste, but to be so generic that nobody will dislike it.

    That seems like punishment enough, the good thing is that the CEO's of the tax evading companies will have enough money to buy nice French products anyway.

    1. Palpy

      Re: Poor America, the shallow version

      While I get your sarcastic drift, and somewhat appreciate the perspective, you're painting with a very broad brush.

      American regional wineries produce varietals which are very different from the Gallo kool-aid you know and hate. And Tex-Mex cuisine is far from tasteless; ditto barbecued pulled pork, real southern gumbo, and so forth. Cheese? For summer salads, I favor a west-coast gorgonzola. Pretty pungent.

      For the most part, the US consumer would not be much hurt by a Trump tax on imports from France, because there are excellent alternatives available in the US marketplace.

      Constitutionally, the power to impose tariffs did not reside with the Executive Branch but with the Congress. However, over the last century, Congress has given much of that power to the office of the President. Now, with a loose cannon in the White House and groveling bootlickers holding a majority in the Senate, trade wars are the order of the day.

      Trump famously claimed that trade wars are "good, and easy to win". He's used tariffs, or the threat of tariffs, effectively when bullying much smaller countries, but his strategy is rapidly stalemated when he attempts to bully countries which approach US-scale economies. And of course, whenever the US imposes tariffs on imported goods, it is a tax on Americans and not on the foreign companies -- a point Trump consistently lies about.

      But, to be fair, the US has always bullied smaller countries unmercifully whenever it suits US purposes. Trump does it loudly and stupidly, being guided by his "gut" (ie, relying on his bloated belly sloshing with half-digested chicken nuggets to be smarter than his administration), whereas past US bullying has often been either somewhat covert (Iran-Contra) or blatantly militaristic (Iraq attack).

      I'm sick of the whole thing.

      1. Reg Reader 1

        Re: Poor America, the shallow version

        My problem with Globalization and Free Trade has always been that the increased economic strength that it has given to developing economies translates very little to the populace and that in countries where you can look after your family for an eighth of what is required in developed economies the cost of doing business in those developing economies is going to be much lower whether it's manufacturing, programming, business administration or whatever else you can think of. Companies that make their money in higher cost centers should not be allowed to outsource to or buy goods from any country that doesn't have equivalent pay, safety, or benefits of the developed economies or buy products from them. Interestingly, the aforementioned rules might preclude the US if the US keeps on its path. Sadly, for us in the populace, our countries no longer have the ability to complete important supply chains and getting that ability back will be difficult. Then there the whole problem of Corporations having bought tax laws from corrupt Politicians that, in effect, are enabling them to destroy the developed economies infrastructure, health care, and education systems.

        We live in interesting times.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Poor America, the shallow version

          @Reg Reader 1

          "Companies that make their money in higher cost centers should not be allowed to outsource to or buy goods from any country that doesn't have equivalent pay, safety, or benefits of the developed economies or buy products from them."

          This would be a terrible mistake. Out of all the efforts of history it is globalisation which has so far managed the vast reduction of poverty (actual absolute poverty) in the world and made more of the worlds population richer. Even China which was dragged into peasantry and destitution through communism is catching up to the developed world by embracing capitalism and global trade.

          Banning jobs from the poor only keeps them poor. And our minimum benefits and pay are often too expensive for such poor countries.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019