Which coin?

This morning I was confronted with my own thoughts of the last few days. I am not stating anything new (at least I hope so). The American issues, the overly visible multi-billion dollar deals and a few other notions. It started earlier this week when I heard that a friend was made redundant. These things happen. It happened to me, it will happen to others too. The issue I had is that for a decent long time we have known that companies for the most are not too bothered with loyalty, for them it is about the bottom dollar, what is interesting is that they tend to DEMAND loyalty to a fault until they cut away the people who loyally served them, in some cases for decades, only to replace them with ignorant junior staff members often costing them less than 50% of whatever they are paying now. This is not new, this had been going on for some time and they do it nice and legal, at times segregating a staff member in a niche position, waiting a year, if that person had been around a long time even two year and then closing down that department, which saves them years of due income in settlements.

Weirdly enough, yesterday’s story about the bankruptcy of America is linked to all that. You see, this entire issue can be reduced to two coins. One coin is the government, on one side we see the view they have of companies and the other side is how companies really are. The second coin is how we see companies and the other side is how companies turn out to be. They are not the same coin, they are an entirely different currency all together!

That is the view the older generation does not seem to comprehend and what the younger generation takes for granted. However, the long term consequence is that companies will end up having the short stick in all this (but about that side more a little later).

Let us take a look at coin number one. The government coin!

Companies, for the most have considered themselves nationalistic, it gives them an identity and also the protection of the government branch should that ever be needed. There is Woolworths, the Australian place to get your Groceries; there is General Motors, an American Company, British Telecom a British company and so on. These are actually the old times, we and with us our governments have had this image. To some extent, an Ambassador still to some degree acts as an intermediary between cooperative businesses to promote trade. So companies get the support of a government enabling them to have easier access to business opportunities. Their importance goes back to the Italian renaissance, more notably when Vittore Carpaccio painted the ‘Legend of Saint Ursula‘ series; they are called Arrival of the Ambassadors, The Departure of the Ambassadors and The Return of the Ambassadors. Ambassadors were the dream of business as they opened doors for trade to commence and increase.

Today this is no longer the case, business has no affiliation to any government when times are good (when times are bad they whine for money and tax breaks), actually they always whine for tax breaks. You see, a company as many can see have only allegiance to their board of directors and the bottom line that they worship in a spread sheet. Today’s corporations are not linked to a nation or a location. Google seems to be the only honest one in that regard. They do not call themselves an American company, but a Global company. Their concept of location is fluid, it shapes to the need of tax relief and where the fastest servers are to acquire the data handed to them by well over a billion people on a daily basis. Yet, this is not about Google! This is about the way business is allowed to be done. In my view it has something to do with spineless politicians (not just in America by the way). As companies were allowed too many degrees of freedom, they opted personal need and gain instead of the greater good. This is not wrong or illegal, yet they use the facilities offered for them with all the freedom, which by the way is as it should be for the most and at the same time these companies syphoned billion through a multitude of tax shelter constructions, all perfectly legal. Did you know that hundreds of millions of people buy their downloads in Ireland?

An option to promote trade has for the better part of almost two decades been used to avoid taxation, not to improve trade and/or long term economic benefits (well they are, but only for the board of directors). The greed economy had been turned against the governments, most not willing to change in fear that they will walk away. This is one of the main reasons why America is basically bankrupt and not just America. Many of the commonwealth nations, amongst them Australia, United Kingdom and Canada who are feeling the effects of people buying online and these governments end up getting $0.00 in any form of taxation whilst the stores are shutting down one by one. HMV and the Virgin Megastores were likely two of the most visible victims of online retail changes, yet the online purchases ended up not having taxation of any kind, which does mean that a nation’s government is losing out.

My initial solution was to make a change that made any online purchase taxable in the land of the buyer, an idea that was never adopted, some thinking they ended up with more perhaps? But all lost out, as the e-Giants remained in tax sheltered nations. Particularly the US and UK missed out on hundreds of millions of tax dollars/pounds.

Tax administrators face greater difficulties in enforcing tax laws and maintaining their community’s legitimate revenue base when dealing with international rather than domestic transactions, particularly when dealing with a jurisdiction that combines tax haven status with bank secrecy. Increasingly, tax haven regimes with bank secrecy laws in place are accessible to almost anyone with a modem and a computer“, which comes from Mr Carmody, Commissioner of Taxation. It was an Australian Taxation Office Media Release on November 11th 1997. So, this issue has been known for over FIFTEEN YEARS! Who else is late to the party? Well, that would be the United States of America, the United Kingdom, as far as I can tell Canada (not confirmed, due to a lack of knowledge of Canadian tax laws), Australia and this prestigious list goes on for a little while longer. Yes, we were getting played in a most auspicious way by whining, crying small minded board of director members on a global scale.

There is one more side to the first coin (source: http://www.internationaltaxreview.com/Article/3252311/VAT-considerations-for-e-commerce.html). The article subtitles drew me in ‘Nehal Radia considers the VAT implications of e-commerce and how taxpayers can take advantage‘. The article has a few good sides and they are worth reading about, but for me it helps illustrate another side, partially the fact that a view given here is not as I see it to be ‘the correct one’, which by the way, thuy were never debating.

Consider your own financial situation, you the reader. If you have a job, it is more than likely that you have not been getting too many job raises since 2012, yet overall, your rent, your food, your electricity and food bills did go up, in some cases by a sizeable amount. Now consider the quote “According to Forrester Research Inc., US e-commerce spending will increase by 13.4 % to US $262 billion this year, with an expected continuation in growth to $370 billion in 2017. In Western Europe, it is estimated that 2013 e-commerce spending will reach €128 billion ($165.5 billion), up by 14.3% from last year and with expectations of €191 billion ($247 billion) by 2017)“. Really? Do YOU have that much more to spend?

I do not think that this is the case at all, yet, I know Forrester and it is likely that these are indeed the numbers (if they did not make a weighting error). What seems to be happening is that e-Commerce is growing stronger and stronger as this group is avoiding VAT payments more and more, which means that shops are getting shut down as e-Commerce is passing onto you part of the VAT savings. Consider that VAT in the Netherlands is 21% and in Sweden 25%, how can a shop compete when these savings are to some extent passed onto the customer by the e-shop, whilst they can avoid VAT and they do not need a location with rent and electricity. Business views have skewed the market and governments are now losing out massively, whilst their own economy is also suffering under unfair competition practices.

If this is the first coin, I would call this currency ‘slow and asleep at the wheel’.

We are the second coin. Our view has for the most been to work hard, to get the job done and to bring home the bacon. It is a simple view, as we aim to be the ‘return on investment’; we create a comfortable pillow where we rest. Not because we are lazy, or because we do not do our part, but because we know that as long as we get it all done, our boss needs us. He had paid us a decent amount and as we are the cause for more income then we cost, we should all be in a great position. Guess what! We were stupid! Today’s management or better stated, whoever makes the coin decision tends not to be stupid, but to some extent short sighted. You see, he can get the same person in India, or that one person just leaving University, to do almost the same at half the price. Whatever ‘loyalty’ you think your boss has had towards you is no longer there, as we are no longer people we are just part of a spread sheet, as we cost more we get replaced to cost less as to not affect THEIR bottom line, which is usually their profit (read commission). There is of course an issue we should not forget, the economy is still bad, and yes, we have to accept that trimming the fat (the most costly employees) will also happen as some companies are drowning. They are now relying on image, without the revenue to support it. Yet, this is not about that side. The coin is on how we perceive on the company and how the company really is does matter, not how they do business. Is that so?

Is their corporate soul not depending on exactly how they do business?

It is hard to stay on this without getting into the debate on how companies sometimes make hard choices to stay afloat. It is more about the changed spirit of the business soul and how they hope that youthful ignorance might get them these 1-2 deals that keep them going. Yet there is a side which we seem to ignore. It is ‘interpretation’ of business.

Consider the Corporate Image Awards 2014 (something that was brought by the Frontier Consulting Group), a company that is actually an Indonesian company. In their ‘Corporate Image Survey Methodology 2014‘ they actually had a nice twist to this story. They stated for their fourth dimension called ‘attractiveness‘ two parameters, one was called ‘Dream workplace company‘ and the second one was labelled ‘Company with high quality employees‘. Here we see the crux. What is a high quality employee? One that looks dynamic (read 22-25), fast (read slim lined) and get the job done, which reads like within six hours and however many hours of unpaid time they need to finish the job before the deadline, or the veteran can actually get it all done in 6 hours. It is ‘the’ unspoken question that is here and is loudly ignored by those not willing to answer honestly and those who are very unwilling to admit the question, is actually a massive issue. ‘What is a high quality employee?’

I am left with two coins and a question. Are we, both the people and the government too slow to change, or are companies driving us to change in too inhumane ways to protect ‘their’ profit? I feel uncertain to answer it, there are unspoken sides that have not been dealt with and there is the need for greed by board members on a global scale which is yet to be properly scaled back, even in these uncertain financial times.



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