South Korea moving to tax Apple, Amazon, Google & other tech companies

Posted:
in General Discussion
Amidst cries of "reverse discrimination" from South Korean politicians, the government of the country is planning to collect taxes from Apple, Google, Amazon and other global tech giants for the first time.

The Apple Store in Seoul


According to a report by the Korea Times, South Korea's government is planning to "move quickly" to impose taxes on foreign companies, including Apple, Google and Amazon. Current law does not require them to pay corporate taxes there.

The dispute represents a repeat of Apple's recent experience in Ireland, which Apple long treated a tax haven before its government recently began collecting taxes.

Politicians in South Korea have complained of "reverse discrimination," in that South Korean companies both pay taxes and abide by regulations, while foreign firms doing business in the country are not subjected to such restrictions. Samsung, both a supplier and main rival of Apple, is headquartered in South Korea.

Last November, South Korean authorities raided Apple's offices in that country, ahead of the launch of the iPhone X. The raid was part of what was described as an ongoing probe.

Apple opened its first Apple Store in South Korea this past January. in the Gangnam area of Seoul. In April, Apple poached Brandon Soon, a veteran of Microsoft and Samsung, to head up Apple Korea.
alexonline

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    I expect several countries will attempt to do something similar sooner rather than later, and I don't necessarily disagree. There's an increased awareness of the aggressive tax avoidance schemes big corporations use to move revenues derived from  a particular country's market to a lower tax/no tax country or state which had no hand in the transaction beyond an expertly crafted piece of paper and some IP assignment trickery.
    edited August 2 radarthekatmuthuk_vanalingamcommand_f
  • Reply 2 of 18
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.

    Can somebody please explain what “reverse discrimination” is? I always thought that discrimination was discrimination, no matter which way it was going.
    randominternetpersonradarthekatjbdragoncommand_fjony0
  • Reply 3 of 18
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,936member
    I don't see any discrimination here. South Korea gave tax breaks to foreign companies to fuel investment by those companies in South Korea. The US does the same thing. Is it time to finally tax them? Sure, why not. I have to wonder how much Samsung is taxed but that really doesn't matter. Just don't try forcing these companies to pay back taxes.
    randominternetpersonradarthekatjbdragoncommand_fjony0
  • Reply 4 of 18
    How much of Apple's operations are in South Korea?  Probably very little.  What percentage of Apple's global revenue is generated from South Korean consumers and businesses?  Again, probably not much.  So, assuming these taxes are implemented in a reasonable way (not trying to grab profits generated elsewhere in the world), this shouldn't be a big deal.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 5 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.
    That's apparently what "they" intend to do. 
    singularitymuthuk_vanalingamcommand_f[Deleted User]
  • Reply 6 of 18
    gatorguy said:
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.
    That's apparently what "they" intend to do. 
    Yes. I guess my point was, stop complaining about “reverse discrimination” (whatever that is) and do something about it. 
    jbdragoncommand_f
  • Reply 7 of 18
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,900member
    gatorguy said:
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.
    That's apparently what "they" intend to do. 
    Yes. I guess my point was, stop complaining about “reverse discrimination” (whatever that is) and do something about it. 
    I find it funny that is was the South Korea Government that created the laws in the first place, and NOW they're calling it reverse discrimination and complaining about it. I guess once you get what you want, outside company's coming in to do business, you can then just say reverse discrimination and then start taxing them. Whatever floats your boat.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,787member
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.

    Can somebody please explain what “reverse discrimination” is? I always thought that discrimination was discrimination, no matter which way it was going.
    Reverse discrimination is typically used by those who have long been benefitting from unearned (or inherent) privilege feeling like some of their unearned (or inherent) privileges are being taken away (or granted to) those who are typically viewed as being outside of the privileged class. In this case it sounds like native Korean politicians are complaining that non-Korean companies are getting benefits that Korean companies should be getting.

    In this case what the Korean politicians are describing is textbook "reverse discrimination," but because it is being defined in a nationalistic context and one would expect that Korea would favor its own companies there is nothing controversial about it. When the same term is used in other contexts it is often misguided, uninformed, and tainted by other biases. Most claims of reverse discrimination are in-fact simply discrimination. Using the term "reverse discrimination" implies that you believe that discrimination should be applied (as Korean politicians believe in this case) - but it is being applied in the wrong direction


    edited August 2 watto_cobra[Deleted User]
  • Reply 9 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    jbdragon said:
    gatorguy said:
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.
    That's apparently what "they" intend to do. 
    Yes. I guess my point was, stop complaining about “reverse discrimination” (whatever that is) and do something about it. 
    I find it funny that is was the South Korea Government that created the laws in the first place, and NOW they're calling it reverse discrimination and complaining about it. I guess once you get what you want, outside company's coming in to do business, you can then just say reverse discrimination and then start taxing them. Whatever floats your boat.
    Most of the tax trickery seems to happen with where companies choose to say they are established for business purposes. Ireland for instance crafted a few special deals with larger companies to get them based in Ireland. Korea and Australia and Japan did not set up tax laws to encourage Apple (or anyone else) to structure themselves to pay the taxes due on transactions that occur in their country to Irish tax coffers, and too often NO ONE'S in actual practice.

     Korea and others are now making a greater effort to treat companies doing significant business in their countries but without a "permanent establishment" the same as companies established there. As it should be IMHO as otherwise "homegrowns" are at a distinct bottom-line disadvantage.
    edited August 2 [Deleted User]
  • Reply 10 of 18
    gatorguy said:
    I expect several countries will attempt to do something similar sooner rather than later, and I don't necessarily disagree. There's an increased awareness of the aggressive tax avoidance schemes big corporations use to move revenues derived from  a particular country's market to a lower tax/no tax country or state which had no hand in the transaction beyond an expertly crafted piece of paper and some IP assignment trickery.
    Tax avoidance "schemes" are often used by a substantial portion of the US population around Febrary-April time every year, when they go and meet their CPAs.
    That is tax avoidance. People and companies, for some reason don't want to pay more taxes.... which is a totally odd and strange thing to do.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.

    Can somebody please explain what “reverse discrimination” is? I always thought that discrimination was discrimination, no matter which way it was going.
    Would you say any of your tax avoidance measures adhere to the letter of the law but not the spirit? That is why many of us have a problem with corporations shifting IP around the world and sometimes into non-countries, to avoid paying tax anywhere at all. It may be legal but not ethical.
  • Reply 12 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,207member
    Isn’t this all due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) / Free Economic Zones (FEZ)?

    These typically tax-free areas exist to attract businesses from around the world... and they’ve worked spectacularly everywhere they’ve been used. Now protectionists and political blackmailers get the idea they can squeeze the companies which have brought massive trade and innovation advantages to their countries.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    Isn’t this all due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) / Free Economic Zones (FEZ)?

    These typically tax-free areas exist to attract businesses from around the world... and they’ve worked spectacularly everywhere they’ve been used. Now protectionists and political blackmailers get the idea they can squeeze the companies which have brought massive trade and innovation advantages to their countries.
    Has Apple taken advantage of any Korean Free Economic Zones? I think the Google's and Microsoft's and Apple's avoid tax there by not having what's legally considered a "permanent establishment" rather than being lured in with candy and then slapped with a tax.
  • Reply 14 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,207member
    gatorguy said:
    Isn’t this all due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) / Free Economic Zones (FEZ)?

    These typically tax-free areas exist to attract businesses from around the world... and they’ve worked spectacularly everywhere they’ve been used. Now protectionists and political blackmailers get the idea they can squeeze the companies which have brought massive trade and innovation advantages to their countries.
    Has Apple taken advantage of any Korean Free Economic Zones? I think the Google's and Microsoft's and Apple's avoid tax there by not having what's legally considered a "permanent establishment" rather than being lured in with candy and then slapped with a tax.
    Apple isn't listed on this site, but that doesn't mean they are not located in the FEZ area. They'd be negligent if they failed to take advantage of them.

    http://www.fez.go.kr/global/en/why/success.do
    edited August 2
  • Reply 15 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    gatorguy said:
    Isn’t this all due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) / Free Economic Zones (FEZ)?

    These typically tax-free areas exist to attract businesses from around the world... and they’ve worked spectacularly everywhere they’ve been used. Now protectionists and political blackmailers get the idea they can squeeze the companies which have brought massive trade and innovation advantages to their countries.
    Has Apple taken advantage of any Korean Free Economic Zones? I think the Google's and Microsoft's and Apple's avoid tax there by not having what's legally considered a "permanent establishment" rather than being lured in with candy and then slapped with a tax.
    Apple isn't listed on this site, but that doesn't mean they are not located in the FEZ area. They'd be negligent if they failed to take advantage of them.

    http://www.fez.go.kr/global/en/why/success.do
    They did better than that. They chose not to have a permanent location at all so not needing to declare any income to the South Korean government whether taxes would have been due or not. If they had set up shop in the FEZ they would be required to file financial forms with them, something Apple would likely prefer to avoid IMO.

    My question would be now that Apple has finally opened their first retail store there if that establishes them as having permanent operations for tax purposes, and if the problem then becomes the transfer pricing and other IP licensing requirements (license to display logos/product images, forms, etc) to make it appear the store(s) make little to no profit. 
    edited August 2 SpamSandwich[Deleted User]
  • Reply 16 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,207member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    Isn’t this all due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) / Free Economic Zones (FEZ)?

    These typically tax-free areas exist to attract businesses from around the world... and they’ve worked spectacularly everywhere they’ve been used. Now protectionists and political blackmailers get the idea they can squeeze the companies which have brought massive trade and innovation advantages to their countries.
    Has Apple taken advantage of any Korean Free Economic Zones? I think the Google's and Microsoft's and Apple's avoid tax there by not having what's legally considered a "permanent establishment" rather than being lured in with candy and then slapped with a tax.
    Apple isn't listed on this site, but that doesn't mean they are not located in the FEZ area. They'd be negligent if they failed to take advantage of them.

    http://www.fez.go.kr/global/en/why/success.do
    They did better than that. They chose not to have a permanent location at all so not needing to declare any income to the South Korean government whether taxes would have been due or not. If they had set up shop in the FEZ they would be required to file financial forms with them, something Apple would likely prefer to avoid IMO.

    My question would be now that Apple has finally opened their first retail store there if that establishes them as having permanent operations for tax purposes, and if the problem then becomes the transfer pricing to make it appear the store(s) make little to no profit. 
    Interesting questions raised. I have no sources to support or dispute any of them.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Total Bullshit, The Government sucks Samsung's tit in 100 different ways the "discrimination" claim is a fracking joke.

    It's like a company X complaining country Y doesn't pay taxes on gas while their whole car receives subsidies from the same country...
  • Reply 18 of 18
    jbdragon said:
    gatorguy said:
    I do all I can to legally avoid paying higher taxes, too.  If they don’t like it they should update their laws.
    That's apparently what "they" intend to do. 
    Yes. I guess my point was, stop complaining about “reverse discrimination” (whatever that is) and do something about it. 
    I find it funny that is was the South Korea Government that created the laws in the first place, and NOW they're calling it reverse discrimination and complaining about it. I guess once you get what you want, outside company's coming in to do business, you can then just say reverse discrimination and then start taxing them. Whatever floats your boat.
    It's more like the laws were created in an age before multi-national "online" businesses were a thing. Some laws are several decades old or written and approved without thinking about the practicalities. 

    For example, in the UK, the "Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005" makes it an offence to activate your own burglar alarm and leave the house if you don't have a nominated "key-holder" to switch it off in your absence! 

    Some laws written in the 19th century still apply here too; ask someone for change for a parking ticket if you only have notes... criminal offence under the Vagrancy Act of 1824, the punishment; "a month in the house of correction" lol.
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