The activism groups behind a widely circulated (and false) AP report stating GE would return its entire 2010 tax refund of $3.2 billion to the US Treasury appear to be getting the band back together. US Uncut and The Yes Men are planning another event to draw attention to the massive problem of corporate tax dodging, but this time they’re taking their activism directly to the source of America’s lost revenue: the Cayman Islands.
The groups have posted a Kickstarter account to help raise $10,000 by June 30 in order to fund the fact-finding mission.
US Uncut expresses the purpose for the quest:
In order to understand why thousands of teachers are losing their jobs across the country, we set out to discover where the leak was in Uncle Sam’s revenue bucket. In Washington, we found myriad lobbying groups and politicians bickering about tax repatriation holidays, negative corporate tax rates and comprehensive tax reform. Oh my! But nobody could explain where the money went, and how to get it home?
Nearly exhausted, we were about to throw in the beach towel when a sign came—in the form of a palm tree. Could it be that all the money is just a few tropical waves south of Key West? Sitting in off-shore bank accounts, just waiting to be brought back to share with eager shareholders and upstanding citizens alike?
“After the fun we had with GE, we wanted to do something bigger, to really strike at the heart of tax dodging," says US Uncut founder Carl Gibson, “The central problem of this whole thing is a system that allows companies to dodge nearly all of their tax obligations by registering, for example, two inches of space at an office building in the Caymans as an ‘international corporate headquarters.’ ”
The project is focused on embarrassing some of the more well-known companies participating in the Win America Campaign, which was also the group’s reasoning behind its recent protests against Apple, a big supporter of WAC.
“WAC lobbyists use language soaked in faux patriotism about how the money is ‘trapped overseas’ and the need to ‘bring the money home,’” says Gibson. “Well, we’re doing it for them. If our tax dollars are being held hostage in the Cayman Islands, then there should be a ragtag group of taxpaying citizens ready to swoop in and bring it home. And that’s what we plan to do.”
US Uncut plans to use the 10 large on a film crew and flights, and the group has certainly targeted the right place. Author Nicholas Shaxson, one of the predominant experts on the problem of tax dodging, says the United States loses an estimated $100 billion every year because of these tax havens, and the Cayman Islands harbors one of the biggest pools of illicit cash.
President Obama himself called the Cayman Islands operation “the biggest tax scam on record.” One of Obama’s stock applause lines was a true-life story he would tell about a single building in the Cayman Islands which houses 12,000 corporations. "That’s either the biggest building,” then-Senator Obama would say, “or the biggest tax scam on record.” Cue wild applause.
The building Obama was referring to is called the Ugland House in George Town, and it actually houses about 19,000 registered companies.
In the Caymans, huge multibillion-dollar corporations pay a measly $3,000 annual fee for the privilege of avoiding contributing back to a society that simultaneously showers the top echelon of businesses with more and more corporate tax cuts. This is the equivalent of a mugging victim then marching to an ATM to doll out a stack of twenties to their assailant.
Since being elected, however, President Obama has done little to stem the problem of corporate tax havens. Back in 2008, Carl Levin crafted the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, legislation then-Senator Obama threw his support behind, and which has, like most bills that make sense, been floating in purgatory ever since.
This theft isn’t just hard on citizens who are struggling to survive in a country with shrinking revenue, but also on legitimate businesses that do pay their fair share in taxes. Quite simply: tax dodging is bad for American businesses, too, which can never hope to compete with the sweet deals multinational corporations enjoy with their partners, the US government.
Legislative paralysis is precisely why US Uncut and The Yes Men are planning this action to draw the American people’s attention back to the problem of tax dodging. The groups hope to remind President Obama that the reason his applause lines were so popular is because Americans are enraged by the unscrupulous tax dodging practices of big US corporations.