theodp writes “Facebook is unlikely to make many new (non-investor) friends with reports that it paid Irish taxes of about $4.64 million on its entire non-U.S. profits of $1.344 billion for 2011. ‘Facebook operates a second subsidiary that is incorporated in Ireland but controlled in the Cayman Islands,’ Kenneth Thomas explains. ‘This subsidiary owns Facebook Ireland, but the setup allows the two companies to be considered as one for U.S. tax purposes, but separate for Irish tax purposes. The Caymans-operated subsidiary owns the rights to use Facebook’s intellectual property outside the U.S., for which Facebook Ireland pays hefty royalties to use. This lets Facebook Ireland transfer the profits from low-tax Ireland to no-tax Cayman Islands.’ In 2008, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg cited ‘local world-class talent’ as the motivation behind Facebook’s choice of tax-haven Dublin for its international HQ. Similar tax moves by Google, Microsoft, and others who have sought the luck-of-the-Double-Irish present quite a dilemma for tax revenue-seeking governments. Invoking Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous common sense definition of ethics (‘Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do’) is unlikely to sway corporations whose top execs send the message that tax avoidance is the right thing to do and something to be proud of.”
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