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Congressional Investigation Scopes Apple’s Web of Tax Havens

A series of subsidiaries spanning numerous countries have helped Apple avoid billions in United States taxes, congressional investigators reported Monday.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., head of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is looking into Apple’s suspected transgressions, said that Apple “sought the holy grail of tax avoidance.”

The company’s offshore entities helped it avoid “tens of billions” worth of taxes, he added.

Apple engages in schemes and gimmicks, lawmakers said, but they stopped short of accusing Apple of actually breaking any laws.

Some of Apple’s subsidiaries had no employees and were run by top officials from the company’s California headquarters, according to the report. Even so, the subsidiaries’ foreign locales allowed Apple to skirt taxes and record-keeping — and, ergo, allowed the company to save billions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to meet with lawmakers Tuesday.

American companies have faced similar accusations in Europe, where authorities in Britain, and more recently France and Germany, have investigated and admonished U.S. tech companies such as Google, Amazon and eBay for their clever, foreign-subsidiary-based accounting practices.

[Source: The New York Times]

Chinese Startup Offers Gay Couple Trip to Canada

In honor of China’s Valentine’s Day, Chinese deals startup Meituan is offering a free trip to Vancouver, Canada, so that one lucky gay couple can get legally married. Gay marriage, along with pornorgraphy, Facebook and other supposedly backward behavior, is not allowed in China.

The deal will cover travel expenses and one night of accommodation in Vancouver. More than 75,000 people have signed up for the prize.

Meituan has gained a 13.1 percent market share in China’s deals site market. It oversees more than US$150 million per month in transactions.

[Source: Tech In Asia]

New Evidence Leads to Fresh Inquiries Into Google

In the UK, evidence from a former Google executive has inspired fresh lines of inquiry into the company’s tax affairs.

Barney Jones, 34, who worked for Google from 2002 to 2006, turned over thousands of electronic documents reportedly showing that Google’s London sales staff negotiated and signed contracts, but then booked the deals through Google’s Dublin office. Ireland, wouldn’t you know it, has a more palatable tax rate than the UK.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is getting flak from some of the UK’s largest multinational corporations, which are imploring him to take decisive action on tax avoidance.

[Source: The Guardian]

‘Compound Eye’ Manufacturing Plows Forward

Swiss research group Curvace has constructed a Curved Artificial Compound Eye prototype. Made up of a strip of small cameras, the device works, essentially, like the vision system of a fly.

There is something of an arms race (eyes race?) going on with minute-vision tools. Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Illinois announced that they had designed a compound eye system that mimics insects’ vision.

The compound eye system yields a wider field of view and deeper depth of field than a single camera — or, for that matter, the human eye. The Curvace prototype is about the size of a quarter and purports to enable 180-degree vision. Put two of the devices side-by-side, and you have 360 degrees of vision.

[Source: The Verge]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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