Multinational Shell Game Hurts Local Business

Tax havens create a fundamentally unlevel playing field between multinational corporations with overseas tax havens and local Main Street businesses.

As a small business owner, I pay my taxes and give charitable
contributions to ensure that my community is a healthy and vibrant
place. My company is dedicated to making technology, communications, and
the Internet in line with federal disability laws and accessible to
everyone--including wounded veterans and people with all types of
disabilities. The success of my business is tied to my community's

So I was troubled to realize, thanks in part to overseas tax havens,
that we have one tax system for multinational companies and another for
small businesses and ordinary taxpayers.

Tax havens enable American multinationals to shift income and assets
between global subsidiaries in order to dodge taxes. They pretend their
profits are earned at their subsidiary in a low-tax haven country, such
as the Grand Cayman Islands, and their losses generated in Hometown,
USA, so they pay little or no taxes.

Business and Investors Against Tax Haven Abuse, a new coalition
pressing for change, estimates that U.S. multinationals avoid at least
$37 billion a year thanks to tax havens. Responsible Main Street
businesses and individual taxpayers are left to pay the tax bills for
defense, schools, roads, and other infrastructure investments vital to
our quality of life.

Tax havens create a fundamentally unlevel playing field between
multinational corporations with overseas tax havens and local Main
Street businesses. U.S. small businesses (firms with less than $10
million in annual revenues) pay an effective tax rate of 19.8 percent in
federal taxes, according to a 2009 report by the Small Business

Meanwhile, many multinationals are paying considerably less. In 2008
Goldman Sachs, with 29 subsidiaries located in offshore tax havens,
reported profits of over $2 billion. They paid federal taxes of $14
million, an effective tax rate of just 1 percent-- less than a third of
what they paid their CEO Lloyd Blankfein ($42.9 million).

I don't mind competing with the big boys. I have my advantages too.
I'm anchored in my community and accountable to my customers. I can make
decisions about my business without having my chain yanked by someone
in New York City or Bentonville.

My main concern is the way this unlevel playing field reflect the
disparity of power between the huge lobbying clout of multinational
companies and the concerns of Main Street business and ordinary

For example, in recent years the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stopped
representing my interests. They're a different creature than my local
chamber of commerce and other business associations, like the U.S.
Business Leadership Network and the National Association of Women
Business Owners.

The U.S. Chamber today represents 300 huge global companies, the same
companies that hire teams of lawyers and accountants to find or create
tax loopholes. Avoiding taxes is central to their business model, and
the Chamber sides with them against the rest of us.

These global conglomerates can't compete with me on customer service
or who can build a better widget, so they have to use their political
power to create some other advantage. According to The Washington Post,
the Chamber spent $150 million in direct lobbying funds in the last
year--$3 million a week--to block health-care reform and financial
reform, and to protect tax loopholes such as overseas tax havens.

More than 65 percent of all new jobs come from the small business
sector. We're part of a new economy rooted in our local communities,
creating real goods and services. We're not playing shell games with our

As a nation we can keep subsidizing global companies that outsource
jobs and aggressively avoid taxes, or we can bolster the homegrown
business sector. We better decide soon before the rest of Main Street

This column was distributed by OtherWords.