“The taxes dodged by Microsoft over the last 17 years could have paid for Washington’s public education shortfall.”
– Jeff Reifman, Crosscut
Last July, the Washington Badass Teachers Association organized a protest demanding Bill and Melinda Gates divest from corporate education reform. WA BATs are organizing in protest of Bill Gates again, this time on Black Friday – November 28th. The WA BATs are organizing a WORLDWIDE #BoycottMicrosoft protest in response to Microsoft’s blatant tax evasion maneuvers. Sign up to join the Washington Badass Teachers Association #BlackFriday #BoycottMicrosoft Protest on their Facebook Event link here.
Join us in boycotting the following Microsoft products worldwide:
- MS Windows
- MS Office
- MS Surface Tablets
- Nokia phones
The protest unfolds in a climate where the Washington State Supreme Court has recently ruled the WA State Legislature is in contempt for breaking their constitutional oath to fully fund basic education as their “paramount duty“.
But WHY #BoycottMicrosoft? Legislators continue to favor corporate tax loopholes, while Bill Gates and Microsoft continue to intentionally shelter profits offshore in tax havens.
The fact many Microsoft profits are from public education is not lost on the WA BATs. The fact that Microsoft’s unethical business practices lead directly to underfunded schools is not lost on WA BATs. Washington State public schools are now criminally underfunded, as Crosscut’s Jeff Reifman explains in Where are Washington’s K-12 Tax Dollars? Just ask Microsoft shareholders. :
“In June, the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to appear on September 3rd to explain why it hasn’t found the revenue to fully fund the education reforms required by its McCleary ruling, reportedly as much as $7.83 billion through 2019.” – Jeff Reifman
In this candlelight vigil walking protest we carry a light for every child who didn’t get the attention their teacher wanted to give them because of criminal under-funding of schools.
We mourn the learning opportunities lost in our classrooms because of tax loopholes and Microsoft’s intentional evasions.
We mourn the loss of revenue for our most vulnerable citizens whom Bill Gates claims to protect.
We are protesting tax loopholes given to – and taken by the wealthy.
Microsoft is shirking their responsibility for meeting society’s needs and putting the tax burden on the backs of workers, thus perpetuating inequality (while profiting at record levels).
We MOURN economic fairness.
But we aren’t just mourning passively. We are organizing against regressive unethical corporate greed! We have a clear struggle ahead of us and we have solidarity.
Some may question our protest of one they consider a hero or “secular saint“. We ask you to read on…
“The world’s richest man is seen as a secular saint. But he should question the example Microsoft is setting by avoiding tax.”
– Ian Birrell, The Guardian
Birrell goes on to describe the accolades given to Gates by both the left and the right …
“The left loves him as a rich man giving away much of his fortune for good causes. The right respects a business brain imposing financial rigour on a spendthrift aid sector. Charity chiefs and celebrities adore him, while politicians jostle to join him in the spotlight.
Clearly, he relishes his latest role, becoming increasingly influential and outspoken. He loves to lecture nations on how they should give away more of their taxpayers’ money.” – Ian Birrell
Could it be the left and the right both receive the graces “$aint Bill” bestows upon them? But Birrell asks a very important question: Is Bill Gates a hypocrite? Readers, continue and decide for yourselves…
Bill Gates claims he wants to help public education. Yet Microsoft intentionally avoids paying their fair share. Meanwhile they claim this has no significant impact on our state or the state’s economy.
“Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith acknowledged this practice and discussed its impact on Washington tax revenues in an interview I did with him in 2004.
“Obviously the company did make a decision, I’m not remembering exactly how many years ago, to put Microsoft Licensing Incorporated in Nevada in part to recognize the lower tax rate that was in place there,” he said. “And there have been times when people in state government have mentioned to us the issue of whether we might move that back to the state of Washington. The reality is that, in the scheme of things, the impact is not very significant either for the company or for the state. Either the state government or the state economy.” – Jeff Reifman, Crosscut
Who is Microsoft fooling? Is this a boldface lie? How does such a thing happen in Washington State? Perhaps tax sheltered funds are used towards lobbying our congressmen/congresswomen and governors. For one, Neoliberal Governor Christine Gregoire appointed former Microsoft executive – Suzan DelBene – now Washington State Congresswoman as the Director of the Department of Revenue, that’s how.
How could Bill Gates make education better? The Gates Foundation claims to want to help the most vulnerable of all students – our students in poverty, for example:
” Our United States Division works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education and support vulnerable children and families in Washington State.” – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Our underfunded schools leave our most vulnerable citizens without the resources Bill Gates and the corporate refomers claim they wish to give and in fact do harm to them. Equitable funding is the real failure in our public schools. Instead of paying his taxes, Gates has invested billions on corporate education reform – almost all of which is through grants that have strings attached to accountability measures that induce a “Game of Thrones” stack ranking system much like he implemented into Microsoft. Microsoft employees were crushed by this system and it was recently dropped by the company as a result of harm to the company, yet he insists on using it on children, teachers, and schools. Gates is determined to use public education as his laboratory to experiment on other people’s children with his money for yet more profit. Meanwhile each experiment takes a terrible toll on students and teachers – especially our most vulnerable children.
Gates has bankrolled Common Core, high stakes testing, charter schools, and teacher evaluations tied to test scores. He has bankrolled union busting even when evidence demonstrates children achieve at much higher rates in our nation’s unionized states.
Gates and Microsoft have taken advantage of US schools for profit, yet they hide their profits offshore increasingly to avoid paying their fair share which in turn could help fully fund basic education across the US.
“Microsoft’s use of the offshore subsidiary tactics has exploded in the last five years, with the amount of Microsoft earnings shifted offshore jumping 516 percent since 2008, according to SEC filings.” – David Sirota (2014)
So is this tax evasion legal? Maybe, according to David Sirota… but Sirota also acknowledges these are intentional maneuvers which threaten government budget deficits.
“The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called “inversions” to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers — although often legal — threaten to signficantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.” – David Sirota (2014)
But maybe not according to Jeff Reifman:
“Because the facilities and employees that built and sold Microsoft’s software overwhelmingly exist in Redmond, the state could have challenged Microsoft Nevada’s accounting as an illegal step doctrine, but I was told repeatedly by former Department of Revenue Director of Communications, Mike Gowrylow, that the state didn’t want to take the risk of losing.”
To demonstrate just one of the ways Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft profit from education while evading paying taxes on their profits, consider Common Core alone.
Microsoft and Pearson get big CCSS profits
“Foremost among corporations already profiting from the CCSS are Bill Gates’ Microsoft and British-based Pearson Inc. Both spent years channeling corporate funds through not-for-profit “charities” — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation, respectively — to champion the development and promotion of Common Core and to create a marketplace for their education technology.
Gates Foundation spokespeople tout the CCSS as a “step to greater excellence in education,” but this latest round of federally imposed educational testing is really designed to secure new markets for technical and computerized educational materials. The Gates Foundation spent over $170 million to manipulate the U.S. Department of Education to impose the CCSS, knowing it would realize a return on this investment as school districts and parents rush to buy the technology products they’ve been convinced are vital to improving education.
In 2011 the Gates Foundation joined forces with the Pearson Foundation to create new online reading and math courses for the CCSS. Pearson executives saw the potential to secure lucrative contracts in testing, textbooks and software worth tens of millions of dollars.” – Betsy Piette, Worker’s World (2014)
Ironically, the profits from Microsoft licensing paid by public school districts via taxpayer money are the same profits Microsoft evades paying taxes on in Washington State. Just imagine the profits from licensing all of the school districts who have Windows and Microsoft Office installed on their computers by reading the costs to one district alone below. Microsoft was accused of bullying Oregon and Washington public schools in 2002 in this article – Schools cry bully over Microsoft licensing fees.
‘The company also changed its stand-alone licenses and now forces schools to pay full retail cost for many upgrades.
All of those changes mean schools can expect to pay Microsoft more now than in the past, regardless of the type of licensing agreement they sign.
“We’re not in a wonderful financial situation as it is,” said Robinson. “We took $36 million out of the budget for next year. The cost of licensing would run about $500,000, which for us is the cost of 10 teaching positions.” – Kim Zetter, PC World, (2002) (emphasis ours)
What does Bill Gates have to say about corporations paying their fair share? Funny how he forgets about the lobbying and choices he makes, putting all the blame on legislators. So much for ethics.
“Gates, when pressed on his firm’s tax policies, gave the usual glib response that they play by the rules. “If people want taxes at certain levels, great, set them at those levels,” he said. “But it’s not incumbent on those companies to take shareholder money and pay huge sums that aren’t required.” – Ian Birrell
What does Bill Gates say about Black Friday?
“You may have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There’s another day you might want to know about: Giving Tuesday. The idea is pretty straightforward. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, shoppers take a break from their gift-buying and donate what they can to charity.” – Bill Gates
Your charity does not cover up the harm done by not paying your fair share of taxes to help the worlds’ most vulnerable, Mr. and Mrs. Gates.
Why is #BoycottMicrosoft important for Washington State?
“In 2010, Microsoft earned $62.5 billion. If Microsoft Nevada recorded more than $30 billion a year from software licensing, that meant licensing had grown to make 50 percent of its total yearly revenues — much more than its final public disclosure of 31.6 percent in 2003. That number would make sense considering the company’s rapid migration from retail software packages to bulk licensing deals with PC manufacturers and Fortune 500 customers.
Using the 50 percent figure, we can conservatively estimate Microsoft’s savings from lobbying and dodging the state royalty tax between 1997 and 2014 at $5.34 billion. If we factor in interest and the Department of Revenue’s typical 25 percent penalty on unpaid corporate taxes, that number jumps to $8.16 billion (see Scenario B).”
This is more than enough to fully fund public education under the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.” – Jeff Reifman (emphasis ours)
Why #BoycottMicrosoft WORLDWIDE? Read Ian Birrell’s report on the GLOBAL implications of Microsoft’s tax evasions here. Clearly, the lost revenue created by unethical decisions made by the world’s richest man need to be actively challenged.
Does Bill Gates really want to help public education? Then be ethical. Microsoft and Bill Gates – pay your fair share!
Don’t wait for #BlackFriday. Don’t stop on #BlackFriday.
Don’t stop until Bill Gates and Microsoft pay their fair share!
Readers, how can you help organize a #BoycottMicrosoft Protest worldwide?
Here is our flyer. Send us YOURS!