If Zuckerberg and co. play ball with new OECD tax rules then their image problem might be solved

Facebook is running a nice ‘Privacy is Personal’ campaign by Possible, good because it’s clear, understated and human.

Privacy issues continue to dog Facebook – and rivals like Twitter and Google – and will no doubt continue to do so despite any goodwill engendered by such advertising, but that’s life in social media/tech.

Arguably an even bigger issue for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and others in terms of public perception is tax – specifically their reluctance to pay it.

There’s a flourishing worldwide tax avoidance industry – aka accountancy – but the heart of the matter is that companies pay tax where they’re physically located, even if that’s somewhere like Dublin (where Apple and Google lurk for tax purposes) or a more exotic location offshore.

But now the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) which numbers most countries among its members is about to unveil proposed measures more suitable for the digital age: to wit, paying tax where sales are generated regardless of whether or not there’s a registered office there.

Seemple – or will it be?

On the face of it there’ll be endless wrangling with serried ranks of lawyers and advisers lining their pockets.

But wouldn’t it be smarter for these companies (and others like luxury goods firm who employ the same wheezes) to say, OK, we’ll pay up so long as it’s fair. The tech giants certainly have the money, arguably they have too much for their own good. Much of the surplus money goes into hiring yet more thousands of clever techies who, inevitably, come up with new ways of invading our privacy.

And what a PR triumph that would be.

Life for Mark Zuckerberg and co. will eventually become unbearable as they fight piecemeal attempts to rein in their companies and their collective image sinks to the depths of Victorian factory owners exploiting under-age chimney sweeps.

Cough up and they could solve a lot of this in one.

The only logical reason for refusing is greed. We’ll see.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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