What are taxes anyway?


June 24, 2019

Today, legislators want businesses to hack back and the Afghan watermelon biz is starting to crack, but first…
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Why did I pay more in 2018 taxes than Amazon?

According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP, say whuut?), Amazon won’t be paying federal income taxes for the 2nd year in a row.

That’s right, Uncle Sam will get nothing from the e-commerce giant uh-gain — even though Amazon profited more than $11.2B in 2018.

For context, I paid over $900 more in taxes than Amazon did for 2018

Sure I (Wes Schlag) probably shouldn’t have hired the accountant running a $50 special, but that’s neither here nor there.

What business does one of the richest corporations in the world have paying less in taxes than a guy who’s never been profitable a day in his life?

You FICA be kidding me…

When President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017, he said it would curb special-interest tax breaks. But it seems to have had the opposite effect, according to the nonpartisan tax institute.

Not only did the TCJA lower corporate tax responsibility to 21% (down from 35% in previous years), it also provided the same types of loopholes and arbitrary write-offs as other plans in years past.

According to ITEP’s director of federal tax policy, Steve Wamhoff, Amazon’s tax plan is notoriously vague. “It’s hard to know exactly” what breaks the company is taking advantage of, he told Yahoo Finance. 

This is nothing new…

From 2008 to 2015, more than 100 profitable corporations paid zero or less in federal income taxes at least once, and AT&T, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Verizon, and IBM received a total of more than $130B in tax breaks.

Amazon’s not even the only company this year: Both General Motors and Netflix received a check from the government as well, despite the latter serving up record profits.

Things are lookin’ bleak

According to Wamhoff, as long as the TCJA sticks around, the corporate tax responsibility will continue to go down.

Unfortunately that means the world’s rising $22T debt will continue to rise (TCJA has contributed $1.9T to that) and, if 2019 is anything like 2018, that means so will mine.

Bummer news
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A cyber defense proposal wants to make it legal for private companies to ‘hack back’

Lawmakers in Congress have introduced tech legislation that would give victims of a cyber attack the chance to track and hack their suspected hack-attacker.

An existing US law prohibits this kind of pursuit, which is known as “hacking back.”

The proposal is Back in Black

The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, AKA ACDC babayyyy, has been proposed time and time again throughout the years (most recently in 2017), obviously to great debate.

The bill aims to let victims hunt down attackers by hacking different organization systems that they suspect the hackers used to launch the offensive.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

As of now only the FBI and a few other government agencies have the jurisdiction to hunt down suspected hackers. 

But right now, supporters of the bill say, the feds are pooped dealing with an endless number of cyber attacks — like the ransomware that has shocked computer systems in cities like Atlanta and Baltimore — and they need help. 

Critics are wary the proposition is a Highway to Hell

According to the MIT technology review, this decision is a very BAD idea. Cuz, ya know, vigilante justice doesn’t usually work out the way it does in the movies.

And plus, who at Walmart has the experience to run with the big hack-dawgs?

» This internet needs a hero

Walmart pays a $282m slap on the wrist for a decade of rampant bribery

Last week, Walmart fessed up to big-time bribery in Brazil, Mexico, India, China, and beyond, agreeing to pay $282m in fines.

For a decade, Walmart bribed officials across the globe into expediting its international expansion, paying officials — sometimes in cash, other times in the form of cars — to turn a blind eye to regulatory requirements.

Walmart traded free cars and computers for winks and nods

In one particularly egregious case, Walmart funneled $500k through a Brazilian woman known as “the sorceress” for her uncanny ability to make obstacles like construction permits magically disappear. 

A small penalty for a big crime

Walmart agreed to pay $138m to avoid prosecution in a criminal case and another $144m in a civil case with the SEC.

The $282m fine Walmart is paying is far less than the $600m fine that was initially proposed. In total, Walmart will end up having paid $900m over the course of these 2 investigations. 

But that $900m — paid over 7 years — is still far less than 1% of the company’s yearly revenue, which is expected to hit $514B in 2019. 

» Everything’s FINE

After a sweet political plug, the Afghan melon market might make it after all

Throughout history, Afghanistan has been known for its fantastic fruits — watermelons, figs, and grapes bursting with phenomenal flavor. But wartime conflict and difficult forecasting have made it hard for farmers to get their fruits to market.

Now, according to a New York Times report, an entire TON of watermelons costs just $11 — and Afghan officials are doing what they can to move their melons.

The president made a melon decree

To help farmers sell off a melon crop that was twice as large as expected, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered public officials to buy watermelons and give them to the thousands of soldiers spread across Afghanistan. 

Since melon producers soon discovered that they needed to form associations to get their melons to the military, moving the melons took longer than expected.

But nevertheless, local officials report that melons are starting to sell to military units as melon associations get off the ground.

The melon decree was a sweet idea…

And now, farmers are launching social media campaigns to encourage people to munch more melon.

Thanks to increasing interest in the melons, prices in some cities have already rebounded to hit 4x their low points from earlier in the month.

» Going through melon back
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