Avoiding tax in times of austerity

1377002765-0«This briefing looks at the role that the Netherlands plays in reducing the tax payments of Portuguese multinational corporations (MNCs) in Portugal. FDI statistics show that the Netherlands is the largest investor in Portugal and the Netherlands receives most Portuguese investment. These capital flows are largely related to activities of Dutch mailbox companies, which enjoy tax benefits in the Netherlands. This results in the shifting of profits from Portugal to other jurisdictions and an overall reduction of companies tax payments.

To illustrate how these tax benefits work, the briefing analyses the case of Portugals largest energy company, Energias de Portugal. The case of EDP in particular shows how the Netherlands makes special secret deals (Advance Pricing Agreements or Advance Tax Rulings) with foreign companies that lead to double non-taxation.

The paper urges for more transparency and a review of this practice and proposes a number of policy alternatives to end the Dutch harmful tax regime.»

Avoiding Tax in Times of Austerity.pdf

Advertisements

Do relatório do Banco de Portugal

nicholas-scarpinato-surreal-portraits-15

«A continuação da rápida expansão da despesa pública primária em Portugal, quando a economia entrou numa fase de crescimento muito moderado e a poupança na despesa em juros resultante do processo de convergência nominal se esgotou, exige uma análise que ainda está por fazer em muitas vertentes. Contudo, é possível destacar, à partida, alguns elementos relevantes. Em primeiro lugar, regras particularmente generosas instituídas por legislação passada foram vistas como dando origem a direitos adquiridos, que só dificilmente podiam ser postos em causa, em alguns casos por imperativo constitucional, noutros simplesmente por serem política/eleitoralmente inconvenientes, criando uma grande rigidez da despesa. Em segundo lugar, o recurso a medidas temporárias, a medidas com impacto apenas transitório na taxa de variação da despesa e à redução do investimento das administrações públicas (embora parcialmente compensada por investimento em regime de parceria público-privada) foram permitindo adiar as reformas estruturais, politicamente mais difíceis de concretizar. Em terceiro lugar, as limitações dos procedimentos orçamentais em Portugal, aliadas às fragilidades do sistema de supervisão orçamental multilateral da União Europeia, dificultaram a obtenção de progressos significativos na racionalização e controlo efetivo da despesa pública em Portugal. Finalmente, a tendência de longo prazo de envelhecimento da população foi um fator importante de aumento da despesa, em particular nos sistemas públicos de pensões e de saúde. Em termos do contexto em que se insere a política orçamental, deve destacar-se que houve alguma ilusão sobre o potencial de crescimento da economia portuguesa, que conduziu a uma má avaliação da sustentabilidade das finanças públicas. Com efeito, a perceção de que o crescimento baseado na procura interna e no acesso fácil ao crédito conduziria à estagnação da economia demorou vários anos até se tornar quase consensual. […] Mesmo no cenário mais otimista para a evolução da economia portuguesa não será possível voltar ao padrão de crescimento da despesa pública que, com uma ou outra interrupção precária, se verificou até 2010. A necessidade de contenção e cortes da despesa é incontornável dada a indispensabilidade de adequar o nível de despesa pública à capacidade produtiva da economia e à carga fiscal que os agentes económicos no seu conjunto estão dispostos a suportar. Se as instituições nacionais, através de uma atuação rigorosa e disciplinada, não forem capazes de o fazer de forma seletiva e refletindo escolhas coletivas informadas e claras, a redução da despesa será imposta pelos mecanismos de supervisão orçamental a nível da União Europeia e pelos mercados financeiros. Neste contexto, são de sublinhar dois pontos. Por um lado, cortes de despesa têm sempre custos para alguns agentes económicos. Por outro lado, o controlo efetivo da despesa tem necessariamente implicações sobre os serviços providos por via orçamental mas que podem ser minorados através do aumento da eficiência e eficácia da despesa pública. Progressos nesta área dependem, em certa medida, da melhoria da qualidade da governação e gestão orçamental, que deve ser entendida como um processo gradual e contínuo, implicando um grande empenhamento de todas as entidades e agentes diretamente envolvidos e da sociedade em geral.»

Hermeneutica da queda duma árvore no meio da floresta

Um vulcão ou uma explosão nuclear são capazes de derrubar uma floresta inteira, enquanto uma tempestade ou um nevão apenas são capazes de arrancar do chão algumas árvores. O furacão Sandy derrubou mais de 8000 árvores em Nova York e mais uns tantos milhares nos arredores.

“The first thing to know is that all trees have the potential to fail at some level of force from wind, snow, ice, either singly or in combination. One main reason, all three experts agree, is the phenomenon known as “windthrow” which uproots a tree.  The tree trunk acts as a lever and so the force applied to the roots and trunk increases with height. Taller trees are more susceptible to windthrow. The roots of trees can extend 1-2.5 times the radius of the branches and many urban areas do not allow this extensive development, the problem lies mostly with trees that have been developed around and had roots cut, crushed or torn in the process. There may be ensuing decay.” Este e outros pormenores sobre a árvore e a floresta podem ser lido na Scientific American.

A derrapagem nas receitas do Estado deve-se a «efeitos não lineares de natureza cíclica e/ou efeitos não discricionários». Alguem aqui percebe de árvores?!

Stage Three

«The first two components of the euro crisis – a banking crisis that resulted from excessive leverage in both the public and private sectors, followed by a sharp fall in confidence in eurozone governments – have been addressed successfully, or at least partly so. But that leaves the third, longest-term, and most dangerous factor underlying the crisis: the structural imbalance between the eurozone’s north and south.

First, the good news: The fear that Europe’s banks could collapse, with panicked investors’ flight to safety producing a European Great Depression, now seems to have passed. Likewise, the fear, fueled entirely by the European Union’s dysfunctional politics, that eurozone governments might default – thereby causing the same dire consequences – has begun to dissipate.

Whether Europe would avoid a deep depression hinged on whether it dealt properly with these two aspects of the crisis. But whether Europe as a whole avoids lost decades of economic growth still hangs in the balance, and depends on whether southern European governments can rapidly restore competitiveness.

The process by which southern Europe became uncompetitive in the first place was driven by market price signals – by the incentives those signals created for entrepreneurs, and by how entrepreneurs’ individually rational responses played out in macroeconomic terms. Northern Europeans with money to invest were willing to lend on extraordinarily easy terms to those in the south who wanted to spend, and ample pre-2007 spending made employers there willing to raise wages rapidly.

As a result, southern Europe adopted an economic configuration in which its wage, price, and productivity levels made sense only so long as it spent €13 for every €12 that it earned, with northern Europe financing the missing euro. Northern Europe, meanwhile, adopted wage and productivity levels that made sense only as long as it spent less than one euro for every euro that it earned.

Now, if, as appears to be the case, Europe does not want its south to spend more than it earns and its north to spend less, wages, prices, and productivity must shift. If we are not to look back in a generation and bemoan “lost” decades, southern European productivity levels need to rise relative to the north, and wage and price levels need to fall by roughly 30%, so that the south can pay its way with exports and northern Europe can spend its earnings on those products.

If the euro is to be preserved, and if stagnation is to be avoided, five policy measures could be attempted:

· Northern Europe could tolerate higher inflation – an extra two percentage points for five years would take care of one-third of the total north-south adjustment;

· Northern Europe could expand social democracy by making its welfare states more lavish;

· Southern Europe could shrink its taxes and social services substantially;

· Southern Europe could reconfigure its enterprises to become engines of productivity;

· Southern Europe could enforce deflation.

The fifth option is perhaps the least wise, for it implies the lost decades and EU collapse that Europe is trying to avoid. The fourth option would be wonderful; but, if anyone knew how to bring southern Europe’s enterprises up to the productivity levels of the north, it would have happened already.

So we are left with a combination of the first three options, also known as “policies to restore European growth” – a phrase that appears in every international communiqué. But the communiqués never get more specific. Europe’s technocrats understand what adoption of “policies to restore European growth” means. So do some of Europe’s politicians. But European voters do not, because politicians fear that spelling it out would be a career-limiting move.

But if Europe does not adopt some combination of the first three options as policy goals over the next five years, it will face a stark choice: either lost decades for southern Europe (and perhaps northern Europe as well), or continued north-south payment imbalances that will have to be financed through fiscal transfers – that is, by taxing the north.

Northern Europe’s politicians should become more explicit about what “policies to restore European growth” actually mean. Otherwise, ten years from now, they will be forced to confess that today’s dithering imposed enormous additional tax liabilities on northern Europe. That might turn out to be the ultimate career bummer.»

 

 

 

Just what we needed

Facebook and Groupon are struggling on the stock market. Skeptics are already counting down the days until the next tech bubble bursts.

Both companies had certainly expected a different initial public offering. Investors were eager to get their hands on shares from the two tech companies, and had to watch as stock prices plummeted. Several Dutch pension funds lost millions. For the start-up industry, this was an unwelcome development, now, new founders must persuade investors that the projections they make for their company aren’t overly optimistic and unrealistic.

The gold-rush fever that characterized the dot.com industry of ten years ago is gone. And hopefuly never to come back

 

 

 

60-Second Adventures in Economics

60-Second Adventures in Economics is a fast and fun way to acquaint yourself with a few of the fundamental ideas in economics. «(…) like an overzealous triathlete, you can’t do all three at once»

Fanny Kemble meets an early steam locomotive on the Liverpool-Manchester railway, Aug. 25, 1830. «We were introduced to the little engine which was to drag us along the rails. She consisted of a boiler, a stove, a platform, a bench, and behind the bench a barrel containing enough water to prevent her being thirsty for fifteen miles, the whole machine not bigger than a common fire engine. She goes upon two wheels, which are her feet, and are moved by bright steel legs called pistons; these are propelled by steam, and in proportion as more steam is applied to the upper extremities (the hip-joints, I suppose) of these pistons, the faster they move the wheels; and when it is desirable to diminish the speed, the steam, which unless suffered to escape would burst the boiler, evaporates through a safety valve into the air. The reins, bit, and bridle of this wonderful beast, is a small steel handle, which applies or withdraws the steam from its legs or pistons, so that a child might manage it. The coals, which are its oats, were under the bench, and there was a small glass tube affixed to the boiler, with water in it, which indicates by its fullness or emptiness when the creature wants water, which is immediately conveyed to it from its reservoirs. There is a chimney to the stove, but as they burn coke there is none of the dreadful black smoke which accompanies the progress of a steam vessel. This snorting little animal, which I felt rather inclined to pat, was then harnessed to our carriage, and Mr. Stephenson having taken me on the bench of the engine with him, we started at about ten miles an hour.»

“It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening.” ― Ernest Hemingway.

 

 

 

Thou shalt not…

“Greece is part of the eurozone and I would like it to remain in the eurozone,” Merkel said during a press conference with Greece’s Prime Minister.

Merkel noted that she and France’s Francois Hollande, whom she met Thursday, have taken the same approach with respect to Athens. “We both want Athens to remain in the euro but we also told you that you must comply with the commitments”.

“Greece will stick to its commitments and fulfil its obligations. In fact this is already happening,” replied Antonis Samaras.