Category Archives: Unethical Business Practices

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

NFL is a Not For Profit Organization

NFL MoneyIt can be argued that professional sports organizations provide economic benefits to their local community by helping fuel the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, etc) and paying state income taxes. Although there may be some truth to these claims, there is a dark side to professional sports that many fans are unaware of. Some of the largest professional sports organizations enjoy not-for-profit status for IRS purposes and therefore do not pay federal income taxes. This includes the National Football League (NFL), the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Let’s focus on the NFL.

In 1942, the National Football League (NFL) became a not-for-profit organization. In 1966, the NFL managed to wheedle a few very important keywords into a piece of legislation that solidified its tax-exempt status as a not-for-profit. During these early years, the NFL claimed it needed these tax breaks since it was struggling financially and many of its franchises were folding. Pro football was not yet the crazy profit-generating entity that it quickly morphed into by the mid to late 1970’s.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

According to Gregg Easterbrook in an article for The Atlantic, “Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the [NFL] league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year.”

piggy-bank-non-profit-organizationAccording to the IRS, 501(c)6 organizations are supposed to be business leagues that promote a common business interest but do not to engage in “a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit.” I argue that the NFL is an organization whose *sole* purpose is to provide entertainment and generate profit for its 32 franchise owners. A former IRS attorney stated, The NFL’s main goal is not to “operate for the public purpose of aiding commerce for all within a broad segment of some type of business or business in general. … [Instead] these sports organizations, in my opinion, are anything but public-minded in their profit interest. They are focused on the profits of their franchises.”

Nonprofit Quarterly had an excellent article explaining why Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okal., proposed the PRO Sports Act S. 1524 and the Daily KoS blog offers a scathing (and wonderfully bias) commentary regarding why the NFL should be stripped of its not-for-profit status.

As a spokesman for Senator Coburn’s office stated, “It’s one of the striking examples in the tax code where middle- and lower-income Americans are essentially subsidizing salaries for multimillionaires.”  Furthermore, the Joint Committee on Taxation in Congress estimates that “removing such exemptions… could mean $109 million in new tax revenue over the next 10 years.”

For an in-depth look at this issue, read the full Atlantic article by Gregg Easterbrook here.

To sign a petition to request the IRS revoke the not-for-profit, tax exempt status of the NFL, click here.

Don’t take their word for it…

There are many cases where companies say they are giving back to the places they do business, when in fact, they do so just to enhance their corporate reputations, or to cover up unfavorable practices. This is also known as window dressing, stated in Mainwaring on page 106.

Out of high school, I worked as a baristaat Starbucks for about a year. During OJT, I was informed on the many things the Starbucks did to give back to the farmers who grow their coffee. I thought, “This is great. I really like the company that I am working for because they are involved in making a difference.”

I like to think I have come a long way from my barista days. Opening my eyes, I realized that everything is not always as it seems. Finding out the truth of a company’s practices requires further research.

In a Magazine and Online Writing course I took last semester, I read a peer’s paper on the trend of companies buying land in other countries and shipping food back home, while the people living where the food was grown are dying of starvation.

Starbucks was one of those companies, practicing unethical business in Ethiopia. This article tells of the efforts Starbucks went through to prevent their fellow coffee growers from trademarking their own crops.

If this interests you, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. A quick Google search can reveal so much more than a company may be willing to tell you. When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, we cannot simply take their word for it.