The Tax Free Tour

The Tax Free Tour

2013, Economics  -   115 Comments
Ratings: 8.56/10 from 540 users.

Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts, Backlight director Marije Meerman (the maker of Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street and Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box), takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally.

Those routes go by resounding names like 'Cayman Special', 'Double Irish', and 'Dutch Sandwich'. A financial world operates in the shadows surrounded by a high level of secrecy. A place where sizable capital streams travel the world at the speed of light and avoid paying tax.

The Tax Free Tour is an economic thriller mapping the systemic risk for governments and citizens alike. Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism?

At the same time, the free online game "Taxodus" by Femke Herregraven is launched. In the game, the player can select the profile of a multinational and look for the global route to pay as little tax as possible.

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tax dodger
4 years ago

this cry babies i live in mexico, id rather have big auto companies dont pay tax and generate employment for people, this academics know sh*t about the working man, this liberal trend among academics is like cancer

5 years ago

Question how much does LG, Samsung and the myriad of all the South Korean, Chinese and other pacific rim corporations pay in taxes ?
If you were state run
Is it an equal playing field?
I am Not saying what the
corporations do with their profits is correct, I'm just saying look at the game field. This is the big League, not high school; if you know what I mean.

Bad Sal
6 years ago

get rid of the subtitles.

6 years ago

The two taxes I am aware of are
- the 10-20% of the coffee price in a local Starbucks shop goes as a tax to a local country where the shop is
- shareholder pays tax on (the increase of) his shares of Starbucks in the country where he/she resides

Doesn't that account for all the tax? From the story I would say that 'corporate tax' is something else...

Wouldn't the obvious, simple, solution be to cancel the 'corporate tax', as it's hard to keep track of, and raise the other two taxes I mentioned above? Then, multinational companies wouldn't have advantage over the ones based in one country...

7 years ago

This was an excellent and very informative documentary.

9 years ago

All Humanity needs for survival is water, food, clothing and shelter. ALL those companies would go broke in a year if the people never walked through the door of Starbucks or Walmart or any of them ever again. We would fare much better in small communities growing food, sharing resources, reusing and teaching our kids how to create rather than becoming slaves to the money machine of more, more, more for such small rewards. Its all about how the individual spends money.

9 years ago

To get the right answers, we have to formulate the right questions and conversely the opposite is true as well, if we ask the wrong questions we are led astray in the wrong direction.
So when one of the investigators asks if we can enjoy all the things we're benefiting from like books delivered to our door by Amazon, a company immersed in doing all these shenanigans, what he's implying wrongly is that we wouldn't have these "goodies" in services if these corporations were not conducting these immoral, criminal activities.

I think the assumption is totally wrong to think we couldn't get even better services if these corporations were paying their fair share of taxes, because for one thing, their own workers and the rest of consumers would have a lot more purchasing power to buy more products and incentivize more economic activity to generate even more wealth for everybody.
The taxes that corporations don't pay are a direct hit to the pockets of salaried people and small and medium size businesses.

9 years ago

Moan Moan Moan

People and companies stop avoiding taxes when the are reasonable . . ... In the UK, taxation is applied with such a grasping alacrity that it is no wonder people and companies are fleeing the jurisdiction.

The maths is easy . . . government spending is 50% of GDP so the wealthy must pay 80%-odd percent so the poor can pay very little . . .

BUT they feel 80% is too much . . . so off they go to sunnier and more welcoming countries . . . leaving the state to borrow to make up the shortfall . . .

I am all for a progressive tax system, but something is wrong when it drives people out of the country . . .

the only solution is to spend less . . . get spending down to 35%, say, and taxes at the high-end would only have to be around 55% . . . which is painful but tolerable.

10 years ago

It is obvious that the biggest corporations can afford the best accountants, layers etc and will find ways to avoid or significantly reduce tax paid to government. Small companies and ordinary tax payers don't have such a privilege so they will be paying higher rates - it is not really fair but in the same time corporations usually operate within the law finding loopholes in the law using their accountants' expertise.

The world is changing so quickly that it is really hard to keep up with all these changes (derivatives, financial engineering, creative accounting, companies' structure and so on). As a result some very limited group of people who participate in governing and operating these fields can make lots of money at the expense of the poorer part of societies (eg. global financial crisis caused by bankers but taxpayer paying the price for it).

It's really naive to think that some kind of equality exists because simply its only asymmetry of wealth's distribution.

The basic goal in business is to maximize profits so if companies paid taxes that they can avoid it wouldn't be rational and in accordance with their goal to do it. Ethics is a nice thing to follow but in business I'm afraid there's no much room for it otherwise you can be the one that is kicked out of the business.

10 years ago

I suggest that everyone e-mail their elected officials this link. You can find web pages for them that will have a link to send them e-mail. While you are at it ask them why they think it is going to be fair to start charging us state taxes on Internet purchases because tax revenues are down due to the recession!

Chris Rock
10 years ago

You don't pay taxes - they take taxes

Alec Mowat
10 years ago

When the recent rise of Conservative fails to improve the economy, the poor will turn on the rich and demand they pay their taxes.
That won't fix the economy either.
We hit peak oil in 2008.
All our innovation and creation depended on cheap energy. Those days are over. It didn't really matter how the Government ran, so long as there was a massive supply of cheap energy to keep it running.
They'll tax everything from the rich now, but nothing will come of it. You can print unlimited money, but when everyone has more money, the costs will go up faster when the demand exceeds the production limits of energy.
And honestly; a bunch of capitalists hoarding Gold bars won't fix the economy or give you any real purchase power.
Our time is ticking... There is no country safe from over population, energy demand and environmental damage.

10 years ago

the inevitable outcome of capitalism

Andrei Cleland and Arpita Arie
10 years ago

The only way out of this that I see is World Government. The only way to W.G. is a paradigm shift in global consciousness where morality becomes more powerful as a social currency than money. The only way to a shift in consciousness is to keep pinching and squeezing and exploiting humanity (ie the middle class) until there's an explosive reaction. Surely it can't be much longer!

10 years ago

Excellent doc, great content, well put together. Backlight is great series, I recommend checking the VPRO site out xD

Samuel Gallop
10 years ago

I haven't watched the doc yet, but judging from the synopsis it is about tax evasion and tax evaders.... all those greedy corporations which take the risk to command resources and create value in the not so free market, only to dodge their tax "responsibilities" when the benevolent State comes to stick their filthy hands in their pockets and take what they believe to be rightfully theirs. Ah, the greedy rich ! Shame on them for not sitting idle while they are being robbed.

To me, the tax evader is not a criminal, but a saint. And all of you who believe to have the right to extort values you haven't earned are the true criminals. Enough said.

10 years ago

Taxes are illegal and inhibit production!

Wayne Siemund
10 years ago

It sounds like investing in these trust companies might be a good way to be part of the game and reduce the financial impact their activities have on the investing individual. Just as long as you get out of the investment before the world wises up.

10 years ago

So, what's new?

10 years ago

This is a great documentary. It quite clearly differentiates between facts and opinions. I found it very educational.

As to commenters who expressed their disapproval of multinationals: are you pissed off because what they do is unfair, or because they figured out a clever way around the tax man, a way you can't imitate? I am in the second group.

10 years ago

Totally and utterly fascinating!!!

you believe in Equality and eradicating inequality then you don't
understand how any of this can be achieved unless you know and
understand how tax havens work.

The trouble is this how the world is set up to work. So why deny it?

Meanwhile those who would justify the actions and mentality of those who condone this gross insane and immoral behaviour are oblivious to how this is destroying the same environment and planet they enjoy life on?

How ****** up is that???

And how how ****** up is it to just morally turn a blind eye to the constant poverty, hunger and starvation of people when it doesn't have to be this way?

The world doesn't have to be arranged this way with only a small percent benefiting enormously while the rest of us chase after them or make do with less or nothing at all?

Surely this arrangement is CRAZY? And actually, in the end benefits no one? Not even that small percent if the world ceases to function?

And yes it will cease to function if it carries on eating up the planets resources for more profits so a few people maintain their riches?

We need an alternative people rather than profit orientated goal to chase after...

10 years ago

We are at a battle with each other... I like that opening phrase in this doc. Why? Because IT IS TRUE. We are in trouble folks. Time to think about the culture you live in. It is hard to see your culture, just as a fish is hard to take note of water. We are swimming in this SCAM, so we just accept it as good and your pains are YOUR problems and not paper pushing scams.

10 years ago

Ha!- Apple buys iphones in China for $50 and sells them for $500 in the West AND pays only 1.9% in tax. Still the crowds at the Apple store think that being an Apple consumer is somehow "creative". Man - what a world!

10 years ago

The American Society of Civil Engineers issued an infrastructure report card Wednesday giving a bleak cumulative ranking of D. Roads got a D-, Drinking water D-, Inland waterways, D-, Wastewater systems, D- Levees, D-. Solid waste got the highest grade at C+, Bridges get a C.Rail gets a C-, public parks and recreation, C-, national power grid received a D+, aviation, dams, hazardous waste, schools and transit -- each received a D

10 years ago

Great Documentary, feed me information! Raaw! :O

It seems to me, if there is a problem its on how we think and can solve puzzles. Laws and taxes are based on requirements, so naturally just like a computer hack you can do almost anything you want if you know and understand how those requirements work.

10 years ago

We are what we are...human. Trying to pretend we are something else is self delusion. What is the point of trying to change our human nature? Money serves as a drug that we can use to 'block out" the reality of being human. But in the end we are all the same. People that take advantage of the "loopholes" with taxes or in life are just trying to get more of the drug that helps them forget. I dont have answers to these questions but I refuse to waste time agonizing over the fact that some people will always be in a better situation and/or a worse situation financially. I was never a Mitt Romney fan but trying to demonize him or others for using legal methods to maximize $$ is pointless. This kind of exercise only holds you down "in the muck" Target the laws if they are "unfair", all the rest is a waste of the life we have.

michael golia
10 years ago

seems like our tax dollors here inthe us more and more are for the military industrial complex , we should in this country want to sell peace more than guns but what makes more money .......war , man has not changed over thousands of years , power and greed , is what the human animal craves most , and it will in the end be our destruction.............

10 years ago

Kudos to Apple and the rest of "purpotraiters" for trying NOT to fund the military-industrial complex through their taxes and use THEIR money for research, partying or anything else than wars.
We should all thrive to become tax free, not to make all as taxed as we are. People that promote the ideea that all should pay the maximum amount of taxes the law specifies are just plain evil.
Until the states prove they are proficient at providing the services they were created for (ie: JUSTICE and PROTECTION), they are not entitled to manage more of our resources. Stealing 35% of what you produce is not justice.

Jay Erjavec
10 years ago

Great documentary! Would recommend it.

10 years ago

What a crooked world we are living in. There is no hope in this civilization and perhaps only an astroid the size of the Moon should collide the earth and end the situation, though good and bad all go together but at least good won't suffer any more.

10 years ago

Multi-nationals DON'T PAY TAX. That's how they do it!!

10 years ago

What's the unquenchable thirst for wealth all about? Greed is a Psychological Disorder.