Author Archive for: ‘reifman’
We’ve discussed at length the Nevada tax dodge run by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, CEO Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith. Well, they’ve joined FWD.US, the PAC run by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – which is funding ads to promote drilling in ANWR and completion of the tar sands driven Keystone KXL pipeline (via Grist).
The Seattle Times failure to cover Microsoft’s $1.5 billion Nevada tax dodge is finally in the news again this week: The Stranger’s Slog Seattle Times Realizes Microsoft’s Running the Legislature, Slashdot Former Microsoft Managers Now In Charge of Washington State’s Budget and KEXP’s Mind Over Matter’s segment hosted me this morning for 30 minutes on the topic (mp3 to be posted).
In the past, I’ve written about my 2 hour meeting in 2010 with the paper’s Executive Editor David Boardman and a small group of his journalists, how his pledged coverage didn’t materialize and how the paper seems to have a conflict of interest with Microsoft’s Nevada tax dodge overseer Executive Vice President Brad Smith, staying silent on his tax dodge but publishing his editorial to raise sales taxes.
But finally today, with all of this in the news, I noticed that Boardman’s reporting on Microsoft through his twitter feed: The Bill Gates Handshake: Offensive, or Just Weird? A Photo Investigation. I agree with Boardman, Gates has a freaky handshake. Go ahead, read it. Then read about his paper’s coverage of Microsoft’s $4.37 billion in tax savings and Washington State’s $4 billion in education cuts.
The cost of using my full data allowance while roaming without an additional subscription fee would be $78,643.20. That’s 1,024 MB per GB x 5 x $15.63 per MB.
I guess an an illusory democracy controlled by oligopolies, that seems pretty fair.
In April 2010, Washington State’s Legislature changed the definition of its software royalty tax and effectively granted amnesty to Microsoft, helping the company lock up $1.51 billion in savings from its thirteen-year Nevada tax dodge - and more than $100 million annually each year into the future.
This is also when the state’s Department of Revenue began reinterpreting an obscure decades old tax on “the opportunity to dance” selectively auditing night clubs and dance clubs around the city and aggressively targeting them for back taxes.
The Century Ballroom, a popular Seattle dance club, was assessed $250,000 and is holding ongoing fundraisers to help pay its tax bill. Other popular clubs face tax bills of $30,000 and even $200,000:
The “Opportunity to Dance” is not in any law. It is only the DoR’s interpretation of the law in the Department’s rules. It is also impossible to clearly define what dance is, let alone what the opportunity to do so is. The DoR itself has acknowledged this.
From the time Microsoft opened its Nevada office until 2010, the company earned more than $509 billion – between 1/3 and 1/2 of that from software licensing. The Department of Revenue’s decision not to challenge the company’s Nevada accounting has contributed to repeated biennial deficits between $1 and $2 billion dollars and $4 billion in cuts to K-12 and Higher education. Yet, the state is using its resources to aggressively target the heart of Seattle’s music scene with bizarre tax legislation.
It works like this: If the state believes that you give your patrons the opportunity to dance, then you pay the tax even when people don’t dance. That’s according to Mike Gowrylow, with the Department of Revenue. Gowrylow: “You could have somebody go into a nightclub, or a bar, or tavern, and they pay cover charges. Unless you followed every person around, you wouldn’t know if they actually danced or not, so the only simple way we could have of defining this is if you give them the opportunity to dance, then the tax applies.”
It gets better:
Gowrylow says auditors search the Internet to find out whether people dance at specific clubs. One clubowner reports an auditor told him: “You have the opportunity to dance, and we verified it by 8 or 10 different references on Yelp.” - Dance Tax Causes Confusion Among Seattle Venues
From The Stranger:
“My auditor… came in with an obituary of a girl who committed suicide,” says another club owner. “When I argued that we aren’t primarily a dance club—we have ‘No Dancing’ signs up everywhere—she flashed this obit that said the girl liked to dance at [our club]. The auditor said, ‘I know this is ridiculous, but I have to do this.’”
Also from KUOW:
One club discourages dancing when it charges a cover, says owner Jason Llorin. “You put things where they think it’s a dance floor — you just put a stool, or you put a tabletop with stools all around it. That’s, you know, that’s all you can do.”
Since it gave away more than $100 million in annual taxes to shareholders of the country’s wealthiest, most profitable corporations, the Department of Revenue is now using its powers to target tiny little dance halls and night clubs – to find $880,000 in annual revenue. The Century Ballroom’s fundraising efforts are essentially paying for Microsoft’s Nevada tax dodge.
- Dancers Protest Washington ‘Dance Tax’
- A New Tax on Dancing
- Dance Tax Causes Confusion Among Seattle Venues
- Business owners struggling to pay so-called ‘dance tax’
- Dummies Guide to Microsoft’s Nevada Tax Dodge
- The Third Anniversary of Washington State’s Big Tax Gift to Microsoft
- Microsoft Won’t Release Royalty Tax Payments
- Hunter’s Promised Royalty Tax Revenue Never Materialized