Apple in Talks With Goldman Sachs Over Potential iPhone Buyer Finance Options – Mac Rumors

Apple is in talks with its investment bank Goldman Sachs about the possibility of offering customers financial loans when buying Apple products, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

“The Wall Street firm is in talks to offer financing to shoppers buying phones, watches and other gadgets from Apple, people familiar with the matter said. Customers purchasing a $1,000 iPhone X could take out a loan from Goldman instead of charging it to credit cards that often carry high interest rates.”

I have long wondered why Apple doesn’t create their own finance company, the way car manufacturers do. It would help them sell more products, and the risk would be shared over large numbers of purchasers.

Perhaps Apple doesn’t think it is part of their role as a hardware manufacturer, and, if so, that’s understandable, but such a move would allow Apple to cater to a wider range of customers, and save them money.

Source: Apple in Talks With Goldman Sachs Over Potential iPhone Buyer Finance Options – Mac Rumors

States Pay the Price When You Buy Online – The New York Times

Can online retailers be compelled by law to collect a sales tax? According to the Supreme Court, no — but that could change if, in the next few weeks, it decides to take up a case challenging the current rule.

The court should reconsider the prohibition, because the law takes a hammer to the fiscal health of states, which lose out on millions, if not billions, of dollars in sales tax revenue. Staggering amounts of digital transactions occurred this year: an estimated $6.59 billion in digital transactions on Cyber Monday (which would be a record), and an estimated $100 billion for the holiday season.

Customers may be confused: Some online retailers do collect sales taxes, at least sometimes. Amazon, for example, collects them on Amazon transactions, but not on third-party-vendor transactions sold through Amazon.

The reason why these taxes are not paid is because the courts have ruled that the record-keeping requirements “were indeed undue burdens that would ultimately harm the national economy.”

Really? Is it that hard? Yes, filing sales tax in 50 states – well, not exactly, since some states don’t have sales tax – takes time, but if you’re selling to a state, why shouldn’t you be required to do so? In the EU, there are 28 states, and you have to collect VAT and file reports. Sure, it’s a bit complicated, but it’s the cost of doing business. When you think of the unfair advantage that online sellers have, if they’re not charging sales tax, and the amount of money your state is losing, it’s worth a bit of processing to even things out.

Source: States Pay the Price When You Buy Online – The New York Times

Why Do So Many People Expect Freelancers to Work for Free?

I like Matt Taibbi. He’s an excellent journalist for Rolling Stone, and he’s written several interesting books.

Today, on Twitter, he announced a little “contest,” asking people to create a logo for him so he could use it as a Twitter avatar, and on t-shirts, to promote his next book.


The “prize?” A copy of the book, and a couple of t-shirts.

I replied, pointing out that he was asking someone to do design work for free.


Mr. Taibbi pointed out that he had paid a designer to design the book; that this wasn’t, apparently, as important, at least not important enough to merit compensation.


As a freelancer, I find it insulting when people expect anyone to work for free. Especially because it is increasingly common, and the reason cited is often that you’ll get “exposure.”

I wasn’t the only person to respond in this way to Mr. Taibbi’s offer, but I seem to have been the first. He clearly thought about this, then, few minutes later, he offered to “throw in a $500 prize,” which, to me, is a perfectly valid way to resolve the issue. But Mr. Taibbi became irked. A few minutes later, he gave up.


Rather than say, “Oops, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have expected people to work for free,” he just saw it as people being “upset.” He didn’t apologize; that would be an admission that he had done something untoward…

It’s a shame when an author of his calibre – notably one who wrote a book entitled Griftopia – thinks that he can just trawl Twitter to get himself a logo. I think given the amount of money he earns as a journalist, he could afford to pay a designer. Sure, he’s just looking for a “scribble,” he says, but the idea behind that scribble has value.

It’s a shame that an author like this thinks that he can grift his Twitter followers and Rolling Stone readers into doing a job for him. It’s a shame that anyone thinks they can do this. Freelancers have a hard enough time earning a living without this sort of grift.

Apple Ireland Ruling Could Be the End of Easy European Tax Deals – Bloomberg

The days when big U.S. technology companies could easily slice tax bills in Europe are coming to an end.

For decades, businesses like Apple Inc. that generate significant revenue abroad flocked to Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, where they counted on amenable fiscal regimes to reduce their tax, even if they had minimal operations on the ground.

On Tuesday, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent the strongest signal yet that she won’t abide these strategies when she demanded Apple pay an estimated 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) in back taxes.

Yep. But Apple’s not the only company being targeted:

Vestager’s move is part of a broader push to close loopholes that European regulators think give foreign companies an advantage. Google parent Alphabet Inc. has also been a beneficiary of Ireland’s tax regime, using the so-called “Double Irish” mechanism to save billions in tax on its international earnings. Ireland is phasing this out, although companies have until 2021 to adjust. Inc. used a similar process to effectively send profit through Luxembourg. In Europe, the e-commerce giant told authorities that the intellectual property behind its web shopping platform was immensely valuable, justifying the billions in tax-free revenue it collected there since moving its technology assets to Luxembourg a decade ago. In the U.S. it played down the value of those same assets to explain why it paid so little in taxes for licensing them. That prompted investigations on both sides of the Atlantic and Amazon changed its policy in 2015, largely eliminating the practice.

And some companies have already seen this coming:

About six months ago, Netflix Inc. told an investor that the company will likely pay higher international tax rates than other large U.S. technology companies currently pay. Netflix, which recently began expanding aggressively abroad, said it views other U.S. tech companies’ international tax strategies as unsustainable, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Argue all you want about whether or not this is legal. What the EU is showing is that anti-competitive behavior trumps borderline tax avoidance, even it if uses what are generally considered legal loopholes.

Source: Apple Ireland Ruling Could Be the End of Easy European Tax Deals – Bloomberg

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Should we publish everybody’s tax return? – New Statesman

What must they be making, then, of suggestions that everyone should have their tax returns made public?

Publishing everyone’s tax details would make the new measures superfluous. In fact, if PAYE details were made publicly available, it would be technically possible to work out the relative incomes of employees in all companies — even ones too small to be affected under the government’s proposed regulations.

What would that mean in practice? One potential answer lies in the example of Norway, where tax returns have been public since the 19th century. In fact, until fairly recently, it was possible to read Norwegians’ tax details online — leading, perhaps predictably, to a rather voyeuristic interest in tax affairs, with tabloid newspapers often using the records to find easy stories.

Before Norway switched from an open system to one requiring registration, there were even concerns that burglars might use the nation’s records to find potential victims.

I was thinking about this yesterday. Back in the late 1980s, I spent a year in Oslo. I used to hang out in a big bookstore in the center of town (Tanum, on Karl Johans Gate), because they had an excellent selection of books in English. I recall, at some point during the year, seeing a big table with huge piles of a drab looking book that everyone was picking up and buying. I asked someone what it was, and found that it was a register of everyone’s tax information: how much money they made, and how much they paid in income tax. I found it fascinating that this country was so open about people’s income.

So with what’s going on in the UK – politicians are publishing information about their income and the taxes they pay, as a result of the Panama Papers leak – I wondered if other countries would ever do something like this.

This article asks the following question:

If the UK followed Norway and made all tax returns public, what would it mean for pay inequality?

It’s interesting to wonder if this would help pay equality; or equality in general…

Source: Should we publish everybody’s tax return?

Super-rich caught out by children’s Instagram accounts – The Telegraph

Naive heirs of the super-wealthy are putting their family assets at risk by flaunting their lavish lifestyles on social media, cyber-security experts have warned.

Sites like Instagram have increasingly become the place for brash, affluent youngsters to boast of their supercars, yachts and private jets.

But they are unwittingly exposing their families to scrutiny from fraud investigators and criminals.

You have to love this. The selfie generation getting its comeuppance.

Source: Super-rich caught out by children’s Instagram accounts

So Google (I Mean Alphabet) Is Now the Most Valuable Company. So What?

Alphabet – the company formerly knows as Google – has surpassed Apple as the company with the largest market capitalization in the world. So what? Why all the score-keeping about this stuff?

Yesterday, I linked to an article explains why “shareholder value” is a dumb idea. Looking at market capitalization to create a table of the most valuable companies is just as dumb. Since share price is often based on caprices, and share price doesn’t ever correlate realistically to shareholder value, this is just a way of fabricating news.

Market capitalization is a chimera. It’s based on the value of shares now, and it looks good when it’s high, but not so good when it’s low. But shares only really have value when you sell them. When the stock market is in a bubble, the financial news organs will tell you how much your shares are worth, but when there’s a “correction,” they claim that “X billion dollars have been wiped off the value of a company.” Neither of these are realistic, since that value is fictitious.

All that counts is whether a company’s share trend up or down, and how much it’s worth when you sell it. And of course, that’s all relative. Here’s Apple’s share price over the past three months:

Aapl 3 months

And here’s the company’s share price over two years:

Aapl 2 years

Sure, it’s been trending downward in the past six months, but it’s still up over the past two years. Unless you’re a short-term trader, the day-to-day price doesn’t make much of a difference.

So, this week, Alphabet is bigger than Apple. Next week it may be different. Big deal.

How to really make America great again: Get rid of ‘the dumbest idea in the world’

“One thing clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest when you talk to many people in corporate America. It’s an idea that completely removes responsibility from many corporations in our society. It’s an idea that threatens not only our constitutional democracy, but also every value Christians hold dear and every value we hold dear from modernity and post-modernity.   

It’s an idea so bad that Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, called it ‘the dumbest idea in the world.’

The idea, called shareholder value theory, is that the sole purpose of publicly-held corporations is to return profit to shareholders.

Customers be damned. Society be damned. Families be damned. Results be damned. America be damned. 

Where did this idea come from?”

In a long, detailed article, a look at why the focus on the Libertarian idea of “shareholder value” is dumb. It leads to a short-term approach, a focus on the value of a company through its market capitalization (Google is now bigger than Apple, FWIW), and turns the stock market into a spectator sport, something it isn’t and should not be.

This point in the article is interesting:

Privately held companies, which are free from the pressures of shareholder value theory, invest more and create more value than publicly-held companies. Privately held companies invest 6.8 percent of total assets, compared with 3.7 percent for publicly-owned companies. Rather than invest, publicly-held companies are more likely to spend money on stock buybacks.

Why? Because once again, their mission is driven solely by short-term profit to shareholders rather than long-term value.

I really don’t see the point in Apple buying back so many of their shares. Sure, they pay less dividends, but the buybacks haven’t kept the shares from dropping. (One can argue that Apple’s share price highlights how illogical the stock market is…)

I would say the second dumbest idea in America is the lack of single-payer health care. Not just because of the cost involved with having a for-profit health care system, but because for many people health care is tied to their jobs. This gives people less incentive to change jobs, or to try their hands at setting up their own businesses. If you run a business, you don’t want people staying in your company simply because they’re afraid to lose their health care. (I know there are systems in place that allow you to hold on to your health care for 18 months if you leave your job in the US, but that’s not enough for some people.)

Source: How to really make America great again: Get rid of ‘the dumbest idea in the world’

Some Thoughts on the Potential of ApplePay in Europe

The highlights of Apple’s recent new-product announcements were certainly the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. But a big part of the presentation was spent discussing Apple Pay, the contactless payment system that will leverage the iPhone 6, and, eventually, the Apple Watch. This is certainly a big deal, because of Apple Pay’s added security and ease of use. However, it’ll be a bigger deal in the United States than it will be in Europe and other parts of the world.

Read my Macworld article.