Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. were among U.S. companies facing questions Monday from European Union lawmakers about their tax-reducing techniques, a month after regional antitrust regulators raised the stakes by ordering Starbucks Corp. and a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV unit to repay millions of euros in back taxes.
The queries about the “Dutch Sandwich” and the “Double Irish” — tax arrangements that allow companies to declare income in lower-tax areas — came as the European Commission weighs its next decisions on fiscal pacts Amazon.com Inc. arranged with Luxembourg and Apple Inc. with Ireland. Eleven companies, including Amazon, faced questioning from the parliament’s special tax committee in Brussels.
“We make use of tax incentives and tax structures that are well known, widely accessible and are employed by virtually all multinational companies,” Google’s Nicklas Lundblad, senior director, public policy and government relations, told the parliamentary committee.
Elected officials have scrutinized the tax strategies of Google, Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft Corp. and others, which have used the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich” to move foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda to avoid U.S. income taxes.
Such structures have “no impact on the amount of tax we pay across various European Union countries,” Lundblad said. “The entire Bermuda structure doesn’t erase any tax liability, it defers only U.S. tax.”
Facebook, which has its European base in Ireland, also has operations in the Netherlands in the form of a commercial office, and a legal entity in Luxembourg, said Delphine Reyre, the company’s director of public policy, southern Europe.
“There is no ‘Dutch Sandwich’ in this,” she told the lawmakers. She said has “no preferential fiscal tax treatment” in Luxembourg.
An earlier hearing by the committee was scuttled when nearly all the corporate invitees declined to attend.
“Unfortunately we were unable to accept previous invitations to appear in respect of tax rulings, due to the fact that we’re part of an ongoing state aid investigation,” said Monique Meche, vice president of global public policy at Amazon. “That investigation remains open, and that’s why our comments, we’re limiting them to tax policy.”
Fiat, which declined the lawmakers’ invitation, and Starbucks last month were told to repay tens of millions of euros in back taxes in the first decisions from EU antitrust regulators on fiscal deals that allowed companies to avoid taxes. After facing criticism by British lawmakers and activist groups, Starbucks last year announced it would move its European base to London from Amsterdam and increase the amount of tax it pays in the U.K.
Google and Amazon were also targeted in U.K. Parliament hearings in late 2012 to 2013 on corporate tax dodging and tactics used by information-technology companies and others. The U.S. Senate has also looked into Apple Inc.’s offshore tax policies. The companies all say they’ve complied with international tax laws.
The European Parliament’s probe, which is separate from the regulatory inquiry by the European Commission, started in February, after documents leaked by a group of investigative journalists showed that Luxembourg alone struck hundreds of secret fiscal deals known as tax rulings with companies from around the world, including PepsiCo Inc. and The Walt Disney Co.
Disney, Coca-Cola Co., and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, HSBC Holdings Plc, Ikea Group and Philip Morris International Inc. also faced questions Monday, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. declining to appear.
15-Month-Old P2P Credit Fintech, P2vest Celebrates 100,000 Users
P2vest, a peer-to-peer lending platform by P2vest Technology Limited, has commemorated gaining 100,000 users on its platform since its launch in 2020.
With a mission to transform the way people access credit and lend money by bringing borrowers and lenders together, the platform states that it allows for quick loan disbursement and a flexible payback plan, safer than offers received from loan sharks.
Cash-strapped borrowers for a while now in Nigeria, have been at the mercy of lenders who use unscrupulous means to recover loans. These lenders who conduct their businesses unprofessionally go as far as marring the integrity and characters of the borrowers and their innocent guarantors.
Promising to provide a better approach to lending and borrowing within peers through the utilization of artificial intelligence, the Founder and CEO of P2vest Technology, Mr Austin Abolusoro says that, ”Our goal at P2vest is to build a platform that delivers on ease of access to credit while also building a credit history. Our approach is different, we are using Artificial Intelligence to ensure credit-worthy Nigerians have access to quick loans.”
According to Abolusoro, the 15-month old financial technology company bridged the gap of loan access by connecting authorised lenders with borrowers, while helping them take control of their debt, grow their businesses, and invest for the future.
“Since we launched (in 2020), we have provided access to quick loans to over 105,000 Nigerians. This is a big achievement for us as we have availed people the chance to access loans for their different needs like setting up of businesses, house renovations, Car loans, paying rent, school loan, medical bills on the platform faster and without delay. While also creating an opportunity for people to borrow more as long as they continue to pay back,” he said.
Speaking on its mode of operation, the company states that it uses the Sharing Economy Technology. The sharing economy technology is a new model of consumption, sharing, collaboration between individuals of goods, services, resources, with or without monetary exchanges via dedicated platforms.
The adoption of the sharing economy technology and its model has allowed the fintech credit world to develop over the years. Its growth now creates room for P2P economy to thrive as they cut out the role of third parties.
On the P2vest platform, users are encouraged to grow their money by “becoming a lender on our easy-to-use platform. Give out loans tailored to you and your income, and earn attractive returns.” Borrowers on the other hand are to provide their accurate info, including bank details, where payments of loan, when due are automatically withdrawn from the accounts.
Angel Investors Plans to List Africa-Focused SPAC Targeting Tech Startup
Angel Investors, Vishal Agarwal an investment banker, and Raj Kulasingam, a corporate lawyer have stated plans to list Africa-focused SPAC targeting only tech startups in the continent.
A report from Bloomberg said the two early-stage investors have been funding African startups since 2017, invested in over 50 startups, and so far made fivefold returns on their investment. They were also part of Acuity Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with stakes in Flutterwave Inc. and Paystack before the firms attained unicorn status.
Vishal and Raj saw the successful investment strategy of Swvl Inc. a Dubai-based ridesharing company merging with Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, a blank-check company. The two investors believed that listing an African-focused SPAC will provide funds for startups needing capital to expand operations in the continent.
Vishal affirmed that investors have developed a keen interest in Africa, he said, “as there is more interest in Africa, we want to give founders a route to market. A SPAC gives acceleration to our founders and is overall a good thing for the ecosystem.”
The growing interest in African startups has been asserted by Briter Bridges in the 2021 African Investment Report, which released data showing that African startups secured $4.69 billion in estimated funding in 2021, where the tech companies dominated the space by gulping $2.9 billion or 62 percent of the total funding.
However, data from SPAC research revealed that less than 1 percent of the 600 New York-listed SPACs are African-focused.
The biggest investment success recorded by Vishal and raj was with Kuda Bank, the African challenger bank, where they invested $600,000 and exited with 14.5 fold gain or $8.7 million in 20 months. Kuda Bank, a unicorn startup is valued at $500 million and has so far raised $91.6 million in funding.
Vishal said, “when we do dealmaking, we are influenced not only by being able to get in at the right price, but being able to come out, We are very conscious about that, and it’s not always straightforward to come out.”
Dario Giuliani, director of Briter Bridges said, “2021 was a year of recognition, where the newly-available resources and the increasing number of international investors shifting mandates to include Africa met hundreds of promising entrepreneurs to support”.
Vishal and Raj just like every investor identified a growing economy in Africa and the increasing tech-savvy youth population, but also the lack of financial infrastructure. The duo plans to fill this gap by investing in about 20 African startups this year.
Apple iOS 14 Users No Longer Receive Security Updates
In a move to push customers to use the iOS 15, the global leading smartphone company, Apple has announced that iOS 14 (iOS and iPad 14.8.1) users will no longer receive security updates.
This announcement comes months after the iPhone and iPad Operating Systems 14 (iOS 14) got its final update in October last year.
Disclosing that they cannot update the iOS 14 version, the users say that they were rather given no option than to use the 15.2.1 version, which the company introduced in June 2021.
According to Apple, the iOS 15 is an update having new features for FaceTime calls, tools to reduce distractions, a new notifications experience, total updates for Safari, Weather, and Maps, and more. iOS 15 also includes new privacy controls in Siri, Mail, and more places across the system to further protect user information.
However, during the launch of iOS 15 in September last year, Apple had assured users who didn’t want to upgrade from iOS 14, that they would still be able to receive critical security updates.
In fact, the iOS 15 is compatible with every iOS 14 device, so there are no hardware conflicts. This gave the impression that both versions, depending on whichever a user chooses, can be used. However, Apple who has been urged to be clear on its security update policy, has directed all users to get the latest OS version, as the former will no longer receive updates.
In a statement to Ars Technica, the smartphone maker noted that allowing both OS to operate was intentional. It also said leaving the previous security updates for iOS 14 was only meant for a temporary grace period, and not a situation where both OS systems could coexist.
Arguing that Apple never mentioned this when it first announced and launched iOS 15, Techspot pointed out that the company still makes available security updates for the previous MacBook operating systems (macOS), alongside its latest one. The two previous macOS versions, Big Sur and Catalina are still allowed to receive updates, alongside Monterey, which is the most recent version of the two. It should be noted that Catalina is a year older than iOS 14.
The company in a space of two months always introduce the latest iPhone, iPad or iPod operating systems. The latest versions, iOS 15.2.1 and 15.beta.3 were released on January 12, 2022. Without updating each versions, it is believed that each iOS can last for a long time. But eventually, apps cannot be used as the iOS isn’t updated. It is also possible that GPS will stop working. The lack of update can affect WiFi too.
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