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Google, Facebook, Amazon decry French digital tax as ‘discriminatory’

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American tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Google joined forces on Monday to decry the French digital tax as retroactive and discriminatory.

President Donald Trump is considering retaliating against the tax — approved July 11 — with punitive tariffs on French wine imports, prompting an investigation by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

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The so-called GAFA companies appeared at a USTR hearing on possible countermeasures and were unanimous in their complaints, calling the tax a “troubling precedent.”

The tax, which Washington considers unfair, adds yet another bone of contention to the transatlantic trade disputes that now also include steel, aluminum, automobiles, aircraft and agriculture.

The proposed three percent tax on total annual revenues of companies that provide services to French consumers applies only to the largest tech companies, which are mostly US-based.

For Amazon, where France represents the second largest European market for e-commerce, the levy “creates a double taxation,” said Peter Hiltz, director of tax planning for the online retail giant.

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Some 58 percent of Amazon’s sales are through partner companies, which stand to take the hit.

The tax “negatively impacts Amazon and thousands of small and medium businesses,” Hiltz said.

“Amazon cannot absorb the expenses,” and the company “already informed partners that their fee will increase starting October 1,” he added

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Some internet heavyweights have taken advantage of low-tax jurisdictions in places like Ireland while paying next to nothing in other countries where they derive huge profits.

The United States has been pushing for an overarching agreement on taxation of digital commerce through the Group of 20 economic forum, but France pressed ahead on its own.

It is “an imperfect solution to address an outdated tax system,” said Jennifer McCloskey of the Information Technology Industry Council, which supports a multilateral agreement under the auspices of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Hiltz agreed, saying the companies believe “an international agreement under the OECD is reachable.”

The tax will apply to about 30 companies with at least $28 million (25 million euros) in sales in France and $831 million worldwide.

But it does not apply to other internet operators like media companies.

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The tax touches “a handful of internet business when every sector is becoming digital,” Google’s Nicholas Bramble said at the hearing.

Taxing only this part of the industry “doesn’t make sense.”

The companies also complained that the tax is retroactive, since it will apply from the beginning of 2019 — something they have “never seen” before, according to Alan Lee of Facebook.


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New testimony adds 2 stunning — and previously unknown — details about the Ukraine extortion

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New testimony released Monday from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Ukraine scandal included at least two new stunning details about the quid pro quo scheme at the heart of the matter.

Overall, the transcripts for depositions of Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who were advisers to U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, built on the story of that we already know: that President Donald Trump pushed a shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents, a scheme that involved using his office and military aid as leverage over the country in opposition to the official policy.

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Trump blasted for his ‘Endorsement of Doom’ after Sean Spicer loses on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Team Trump had gone all in urging supporters to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the game show "Dancing with the Stars."

Votes had been urged by RNC officials and Trump himself had urged his 66 million Twitter followers to vote for Spicer.

Despite the full heft of the Trump campaign, Spicer lost on Monday's show.

Trump deleted his failed tweet urging votes for Spicer -- and instead said it was a "great try" by his former advisor.

Looks like this endorsement was as successful as your last one!

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‘He’s misunderstood’: Nikki Haley tells Fox News how Trump is actually a really good listener

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Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley defended President Donald Trump during a Monday appearance with Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Hannity asked the former South Carolina governor if Trump was "misunderstood."

"I do think he’s misunderstood," Haley replied.

"I can tell you, from the first day to the last day that I worked for the president, he always listened, he was always conscious of hearing other voices, allowing people to debate out the issues, and then he made his decision," Haley claimed.

She argued that, "I saw a president that was very thoughtful, looked at all of the issues, made decisions, and it was a pleasure and honor to work with him."

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