Bermuda: Where Microsoft parks its money to avoid paying American taxes.
Bermuda: Where Microsoft parks its money. Andres Virviescas /

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The Guardian:

US corporate giants such as Apple, Walmart and General Electric have stashed $1.4tn (£980bn) in tax havens, despite receiving trillions of dollars in taxpayer support, according to a report by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The sum, larger than the economic output of Russia, South Korea and Spain, is held in an “opaque and secretive network” of 1,608 subsidiaries based offshore, said Oxfam.

The Oxfam analysis shows that local corporate heavyweight Microsoft has stashed a monumental $108 billion in offshore tax havens, while Boeing has put away a comparatively paltry $800 million. Of the country's biggest fifty companies, Microsoft is the third-worst offender. (Amazon does it too, according to Reuters.)

There is a direct relationship between this kind of tax avoidance, including the lobbying that goes into enabling it, and our own city's homelessness crisis. When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared an official homelessness "emergency" last fall, he blamed the federal government for defunding affordable housing locally and nationally. Here's how Oxfam traces the connection:

As tax returns from multinational companies fall short of their potential, governments often turn to two options: either cut back on the essential investments needed to reduce inequality and deprivation or make up the shortfall by levying higher taxes on working families and small businesses in the domestic economy. Both options see the poorest people lose out and the inequality gap grow...

In fiscal year 2014, the US federal government collected $320.7 billion from corporate income taxes or 10.6% of its total revenue, down from 32% in 1952...

Since 2010, federal policymakers have cut 85% of US federal programs supporting low income families. Chronically underfunded anti-poverty efforts took ever deeper cuts, leaving them with less funding today than six years ago. Consider low-income housing assistance, where already trim budgets mean only about one in every four eligible poor families receive rental assistance. Because of budget cuts, local housing agencies have had to further reduce the number of available housing vouchers...

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Last year, the Seattle Times reported: "22,600 households applied for just 2,500 spots on the King County Housing Authority‘s waiting list for Section 8 rental assistance." And in 2013, the Seattle Housing Authority "received about 24,000 applications for 2,000 spots."

If the mayor wanted to get his social justice activist thing on and, say, lead a sit-in against tax dodging on the steps of Microsoft's corporate headquarters in Redmond, I'd totally join him. Would you?

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