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Taxing Times

The French government has opened a can of worms with its move to tax technology giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. The French initiative is a response to a growing public feeling that countries are losing out on billions in taxes because of the intangible and extra-territorial nature of the digital economy. Around 30 companies—mostly American—will have to pay the tax.

France has accused firms of routing some profits through low-tax EU member states, such as Ireland and Luxembourg. Any digital company with revenue of more than €750m—of which at least €25m is generated in France—would be subject to the tax. The French government has argued that companies should not be able to escape paying tax if their headquarters are based elsewhere.

Naturally, US President Donald Trump has waded into the controversy, vowing retaliatory measures like imposing new tariffs on countries the Trump administration feels is taking the US for a ride—India being a prime example. The US took the same view on China, entangling itself in a trade war.

The digital tax is a risk for France. There had been talk of a Europe-wide tech tax but talks collapsed. Other countries—such as the UK, Spain and Austria —are considering similar moves, but France is the first to implement the initiative. French President Emmanuel Macron is hoping that other countries follow his lead or, at the least, look at a multilateral agreement on how digital firms should be taxed globally, putting an end to the vast sums of money made by internet giants while paying minimum taxes in the country they list as their headquarters, like Luxembourg.

Cashing in on Celebrities

US soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s complaints about women getting paid far less than their male counterparts was reinforced by the annual Forbes list of highest paid celebrities, released last week. The top ten included Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi in fourth spot with $127 million in earnings, Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo with $109m, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar with $105m who took sixth and seventh spots, respectively.

However, women didn’t do so badly either. “Shake it off” singer Taylor Swift topped the list of highest paid celebrities with earnings of $185m, while the second highest earner on the list is 21-year-old model and make-up mogul Kylie Jenner, who earned $170m. Other women on the list include author JK Rowling with $92m at number 13 and singer Beyoncé with $81m in the 20th position.

Forbes has been using its own matrix to calculate pre-tax profits of celebrities, and this year, only 16 women have made it into the top 100. There’s just one Indian celeb on the list—Akshay Kumar makes it to the 33rd spot with earnings of Rs 444 crore, ($65 million).

The actor is even ahead of Hollywood A-listers like Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Katy Perry, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

Soccer’s New Star

American star football player Megan Rapinoe has become the shining new symbol for gender equality. The captain of the USA soccer team has raised her profile, and her demands, after the US won the Women’s World Cup tournament in France.

The crowd in the Lyon stadium where the final was played, echoed her views, chanting: “Equal pay! Equal pay!” She herself said after the team’s triumphant return to America: “I think we are done with the questions like ‘are we worth it?’ Let’s get to the next point of ‘what’s next’?”

She has a point. The winning US team in France received $4m (£3.2m), double the amount of the previous tournament in 2015 but way short of the men’s World Cup prize money of $400m. Apart from prize money, each of the women’s teams competing in the recent tournament received around $800,000 in preparation costs and other expenses. The teams taking part in the men’s World Cup were given $1.5 million. The differences are stark. However, FIFA argued that the revenue generated by the men’s events is far higher than the women’s.

Rapinoe has also made a strong political statement, saying she would refuse to enter the White House due to Donald Trump—it is customary for world champion teams to be invited by the president. She scored a goal in the US team’s win against the Netherlands and looks likely to score many more, off the field.

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