Monday, November 23, 2009

Taxation & Globalization

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007.

The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, New York-based Goldman Sachs said today in a statement. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits.

Goldman Sachs, which today reported its first quarterly loss since going public in 1999, lowered its rate with more tax credits as a percentage of earnings and because of “changes in geographic earnings mix,” the company said.

The rate decline looks “a little extreme,” said Robert Willens, president and chief executive officer of tax and accounting advisory firm Robert Willens LLC.

“I was definitely taken aback,” Willens said. “Clearly they have taken steps to ensure that a lot of their income is earned in lower-tax jurisdictions.”

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said steps by Goldman Sachs and other banks shifting income to countries with lower taxes is cause for concern.

“This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs,” Doggett said. “With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore.”

In the first nine months of the fiscal year, Goldman had planned to pay taxes at a 25.1 percent rate, the company said today. A fourth-quarter tax credit of $1.48 billion was 41 percent of the company’s pretax loss in the period, higher than many analysts expected. David Trone, an analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton Cochran Caronia Waller, expected the fourth-quarter tax credit to be 28 percent.

The tax-rate decline may raise some eyebrows because of the support the U.S. government has provided to Goldman Sachs and other companies this year, Willens said.

“It’s not very good public relations,” he said.

Source - Bloomberg


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