In recent weeks, authorities in the US have begun to take sorely-needed measures to help level the playing field between the largest IT firms and online businesses, and their smaller counterparts both offline and in the brick-and mortar space.
In May, US authorities repealed a decades-old law which afforded online retailers an unfair advantage against their real-world counterparts. The Marketplace Fairness Act repealed laws which had for years exempted online retailers such as Amazon to sell items within the US without being subject to state sales tax.
First put forward in the 1990s, the rule was deisgned to help spur interest in online retail shopping and help the burgeoning internet firms keep up with the national retail chains who commanded big discounts with their wholesale buying power.
As time moved on, however, the online retail space grew, and what was once a needed leg-up had now become an unfair advantage. Brick and mortar businesses fell by the dozens, and online firms were able to grow into the largest retailers in the market without having to pay taxes in the states in which they do business.
By May of this year, lawmakers had finally had enough. Online retail had become the dominant form for making many purchases and states were starving for revenue. The retailers themselves opposed the act, claiming that it would impact their bottom lines and hurt their ability to maintain jobs. In the end, however, the act passed the Senate.
Similarly, Congress finally came to its senses when it decided to take a look into the tax accounting practices of some of the largest names in the IT space. Authorities probed a number of huge names, including Apple, HP and Microsoft, over their use of offshore accounts and other loopholes to hide as much of their revenue as possible from US tax authorities.
The investigations raised an interesting point. In a global IT market, companies could try to funnel money through their subsidiaries or foreign offices where tax laws are more advantageous than they would be in the US and UK, despite the company perhaps reinvesting those funds in developed markets or paying them out to shareholders in those locales.
Apple, for its part, claims that it both collects and invests its international revenues back in those markets. But even if true, measures should be put in place to ensure that technology firms who are now among the biggest brands in the world cannot dodge paying their fair share.
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