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We ask, for example, if the European-American relationship is a "friendship or a mere partnership". Partnership implies a cynical "mathematics of interests", so we might prefer friendship. However, a recent decision by the European Commission, the EU's executive, told Apple to cough up $14.5 billion, plus interest, in unpaid taxes; a move that [some] American politicians denounced as a "tax grab". The ruling is part of a broader assault on tax planning, led by Europe.
European countries have been closely involved in efforts to create international consensus on how to close loopholes in cross-border taxation. These are led by the OECD, and are known as the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. The 112 participating countries agreed on a set of reforms last year, but implementation is patchy. Some see the commission's ruling on Apple as a sign that it has little faith in BEPS. The judgement certainly complicates international tax diplomacy.
Washington criticised the Apple ruling, calling it "unfair". It had warned that it might retaliate in some way if Brussels went ahead. It argues that the commission is trying to turn itself into a "supranational tax authority", threatening the consensus achieved through BEPS on the crucial "arm's-length principle" at the heart of transfer-pricing rules. These govern the prices that subsidiaries of a multinational in different countries charge each other for the products and services that flow between them.
These BEPS arrangements will be challenged, appeals that could take a decade or more to grind through the courts. Some [one] lawyer recently described the commission's actions as "legal mumbo-jumbo" and poor maths. For constructive and creative company builders - caught between a rock and a hard place; facing a bureaucratic Voldemort - bear in mind we specialize successfully in international corporate taxation.
"In order to stay still, you should run twice as fast as that," Alice formulated it in Wonderland. The double entendres and incompetence of the European Commission outrun its malevolence, and either you address an issue yourself or it will be done for you, albeit, trying to sell Washington the same horse twice might not work. It (Brussels) will find that ineptitude and inconsistency are not quite the same as inaction.
If the bureaucrats wish to keep a cat's paw in the legal darkness they should have set straight themselves a long time ago, we realize - and here I can speak with some authority - there is no one in charge; the lunatics are running the asylum. Dutiful dullards frequently end up better regarded than talented chancers, however, we have seen neither here. Remember, there is still honour, if not glory, in making the best of a bad job.
Admiration is a form of inverted envy, and this is what I have and feel for all those entrepreneurial individuals out there in the ball-game of life, being bold and taking risks, on behalf of us all, intrinsically not hurting anyone else, and at the behest of no one ... but themselves. Despite dodgy odds, the best entrepreneurs push on. People often persevere, from what I can tell, because they have an almost irrational commitment to a cause.
An entrepreneur - from the French entreprendre, meaning to undertake - is defined as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable intitiative and risk. We care about entrepreneurs - they may be inventors, but more often than not innovators - and we care especially for young entrepreneurs. There are forces at work in young people, the greatest of which is growth, and they may experience a certain hopeless helplessness, leaving juveniles bitterly acrimonious.
Instinct and law demand of young people obedience. But growth demands disobedience; and here truth and myth may collide, if we are not misreading our meek compatriots completely. Any government or state of society which fails to win for itself some measure of the generosity and loyalty natural to youth is in for grave trouble. And, indeed, experience has proved it: of all forms of breeding, that of human cattle is one of the hardest. The young West glows white-hot with talent, and they are indeed our most valuable asset, surpassing all others by a wide margin.
Claes Reinhold Ekman
CLAES REINHOLD EKMAN, Chairman
EU / European Union Counsellor and U.S. Legal Counsel