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Friday, September 15


Friday, September 15

The EU plans to catch tax dodging online multinationals with a new levy


EU finance ministers to discuss taxing online giants

The EU plans to catch tax dodging online multinationals with a new levy
Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

Today, EU finance ministers will be meeting in Estonia to discuss tax reform for multinational digital platforms, like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Currently, the profits generated by internet-based companies are only taxed in the company’s country of residence. As such, many multinational corporations base themselves in countries with low corporate tax rates, like Ireland or Luxembourg, and use creative accounting processes to shift their profits to those countries.

The new scheme aims to levy an “equalisation tax” of 2%-5% anywhere firms generate revenue, not just in the state of their established tax residence. Some countries, like Ireland, fear they’ll lose billions in foreign investment from multinational businesses, and therefore oppose it. All EU member states have the power to veto the proposal.

With the issue gaining momentum, holdout countries might be pressured into meeting halfway- possibly on an Estonian plan that is similar to the one above, but taxes profits instead of revenue. Even if a consensus is reached, it’s unlikely that Brussels will institute the changes without global compliance– primarily from the OECD. Without such coordination, big firms could move outside the bloc, meaning EU states risk losing the tax revenues altogether.


Prominent Saudi clerics arrested ahead of planned protests

Awad al-Qarni and two other Islamist-leaning clerics have been detained by Saudi authorities ahead of a planned anti-government protest
Photo: Emad Alhusayni/Flickr

Following the arrests of prominent and outspoken clerics, it is uncertain if protests planned today in Saudi Arabia will take place. Salman al-Awdah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omary were detained over the weekend on suspicion of espionage and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Dubbed the September 15 Movement, the protests were designed to rouse anti-royal sentiment. This crackdown on Islamist opposition to the conservative kingdom comes in response to rising tensions with Qatar over its alleged support of Islamist militants. Regardless, longstanding repression has historically not prevented political mobilisation, as many Saudis have taken to social media to express their concerns. Sporting 14 million followers, Awdah’s arrest came after tweeting support for mediation in the Gulf dispute.

With both Qatar and Saudi Arabia striving to undermine each other in this ever-deepening feud, these arrests, along with yesterday’s Qatari opposition conference in London, prove just how far these once-brotherly monarchies have diverged.


NASA probe to live broadcast final descent into Saturn

The Cassini probe will descend into Saturn today ending a 20 year mission
Photo: NASA

Today, the US space agency will complete its self-described “Grand Finale” by plunging the $3.3 billion Cassini spacecraft into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will disintegrate upon entrance.

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Scientists fear the 20-year-old craft could become uncontrollable—as it is low on fuel—and crash into one of the planet’s moons, contaminating future studies.

Funding for NASA has decreased since the early 1990s, going from 1.05% of the US federal budget in 1991 to just over 0.4% for this year. President Trump’s budget proposes cutting the space agency’s resources by almost $200 million—much of which will hit the Earth Science Missions, which, among other things, observe patterns of climate change.

Over the years, Mr Trump has maintained the view that climate change is either fictional or a non-issue. Given the president’s antipathy towards a basic acknowledgment of climate change, do not expect funding for the beleaguered organisation’s terrestrial research to substantially increase during his tenure. Contrastingly, planetary research and astrophysics, umbrellas that encompass missions like the Cassini probe, were spared the guillotine in the president’s initial budgetary proposal.

Cassini’s crash can be streamed here, and footage is likely to be uploaded around 1100 GMT.

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