Europe: Apple hit with $14.5B tax bill
European regulators are calling Apple a “multibillion-dollar tax cheat,” said Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.The European Union this week ordered Ireland to bill the technology giant for up to $14.5 bil lion in back taxes, plus interest. The decision comes after a two-year EU investigation determined that Apple had struck illegal deals with Dublin in 1991 and 2007, allowing it “to pay virtually no taxes” on European profits by funneling the cash through two Irish subsidiaries. By 2014, Apple’s effective tax rate had fallen to 0.005 percent in Ireland, meaning it paid just $50 on every $1 mil lion in profit, regulators said.
The record penalty “is a drop in the bucket for Apple, which has a total cash pile of more than $230 bil lion,” said James Kanter and Mark Scott in The New York Times. Nevertheless, Apple has vowed to fight the EU’s decision, as has Ireland, which is keen to protect its tax-friendly reputation. Even without incentives, Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the devel oped world. Expect more tax fights to come. EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager “has made tax avoidance a central focus,” pursuing actions that have ensnared Starbucks in the Netherlands, Amazon in Luxembourg, and Anheuser-Busch InBev in Belgium.
Tech: Amazon dials back work hours
The working week is getting a lot shorter for some Amazon employees, said Karen Turner in The Washington Post. The company unveiled a pilot program last week that will see several technical teams made entirely of part-time employees working 30-hour weeks. They’ll receive the same benefits as full-timers, but 25 percent less pay. The announcement comes a year after a New York Times report described the harddriving corporate culture at Ama zon, with many employees working upward of 80 hours a week “while rarely taking vacation.” Ama zon says the change recognizes that full-time schedules are not “one size fits all.”
Economy: Americans in the mood to spend
“Consumer confidence surged to a 12-month high in August,” said Paul Davidson in USA Today. The Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index climbed to 101.1 last month from 96.7 in July. Economists had expected the closely watched index to dip, but “strong job gains and low gasoline prices more than offset uncertainty over the presidential election and weak economic growth.” The burst of optimism apparently has consumers wanting to go shopping. About half of Americans say they intend to buy an appliance soon, and 6.4 per cent are planning to buy a home in the next six months, the highest level since January.
Restaurants: Chipotle accused of wage theft
“Nearly 10,000 workers are suing Chipotle for allegedly cheating them on their pay,” said Heather Long in CNN.com. The class action lawsuit, joined by at least 9,961 current and former workers, claims Chipotle routinely requires employees to keep working after they clock out. Most of the complaints center around closing time. Chipotle’s system automatically clocks workers out by 12:30 a.m. at most of its restaurants, “but workers say they are often asked to stay longer to finish cleaning and preparing for the next day.” Chipotle denies any wrongdoing.
Food: Mondelez halts $23B pursuit of Hershey
“Snacking giant Mondelez has ended the company’s short-lived bid for chocolate giant Hershey,” said John Kell in Fortune.com. Mondelez, which owns brands like Nabisco, Oreo, and Cadbury, dropped its $23 bil lion takeover offer this week in the face of stiff resistance from the Milton Hershey Trust, which controls 80 per cent of Hershey’s shareholder votes. The deal would have created the world’s largest candy company, with $37 bil lion in annual sales. Now, Mondelez looks likely to become an acquisition target itself, with investors and Wall Street analysts pushing for more consolidation in the food industry.
Taking revenge on office printers
The iconic printersmashing scene from the cult movie Office Space is inspiring some real-life businesses, said Bradley Olson and Sara Randazzo in The Wall Street Journal. At theaters run by the Alamo Drafthouse chain, companies can book Office Space viewing parties that culminate in employees taking a printer out back and using baseball bats to exact revenge for all those paper jams— just like in the 1999 workplace satire. And in c ities across North America, “rage rooms” are opening where customers can unwind by destroying everything from dishes to furniture. Most in demand are printers. Battle Sports in Toronto, which charges $45 for a 45-minute smashing session, goes through 15 printers a week, saving the biggest machines for corporate parties. It takes about 10 solid blows to finish off a printer, says co-founder Steve Shrew. “When you smash it,” he says, “it creates glass fireworks.”