Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 8 - Corporate Taxes - full transcript

John Oliver talks about the Corporate Taxes. He gives examples of how big corporation always tries to evade taxes. They are using the loop holes in American tax system. He also expressed ...

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight !
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for joining us. We must
begin tonight with James Comey,

who sat down for an eye-catching
interview with ABC.

We haven't seen it yet,
we tape this show at seven o'clock,

but even just the clips this week
have been tantalizing.

I started telling him
about the allegation

was that he had been involved
with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow

in 2013 during a visit
for the Miss Universe pageant

and that the Russians
had filmed the episode.

- How weird was that briefing ?
- Really weird.

Yeah, James Comey thought
that conversation was "really weird."

And that this is a man who has seen
Anthony Weiner's emails.

The Comey interview is the end of a
dramatic week that started with this.

Breaking news tonight !
FBI raids the office

of President Trump's
personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

It's true: the president's
personal lawyer got raided,

which has apparently left Trump
"pissed, flailing and upset,"

with "anger beyond
what anyone can imagine."

Which is saying something,

given that Trump's anger level
is somewhere between

"child who ate a pound of cocaine
throwing a tantrum in a K-Mart"

and Alec Baldwin after being told the
other party is finishing their dessert.

Cohen dominated the news particularly
when it emerged that Donald Trump

was not the only political figure
for whom he'd arranged hush money.

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy
says Cohen negotiated a settlement,

reportedly worth 1.6 million dollars
with a former Playboy Playmate

who claims she became pregnant
as a result of a consensual affair.

Today Broidy resigned his post.

The deputy finance chair of the RNC,
cheated on his wife

with a former Playboy model,
and paid her off,

and has now resigned,
presumably so he can start his new job

as a big ol' bullfrog who sits
on a lily pad all the doo dah day.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
announced he wouldn't seek reelection,

Trump pardoned Scooter Libby,
and the National Enquirer

may've paid a doorman at Trump World
Tower to keep quiet about rumors

that Trump had fathered a secret child
with his housekeeper in '80s.

And on Friday night,
we bombed Syria.

There are those who would argue
that something had to be done

in response to Assad's
suspected chemical attack.

There are debates over whether Trump
had authorization to order the strikes,

and whether this risks drawing us
into a longer-term conflict

for which we have
no clear strategy.

But Trump has already declared,
"mission accomplished."

Something even Ari Fleischer,
George W. Bush's Press Secretary,

responded to "I would have
recommended ending this tweet"

"with not those two words."

But this morning,
in a not-remotely-surprising turn,

Trump doubled down
on the phrase.

President Trump defended
the use of "mission accomplished."

"Syrian raid was carried out
with such precision"

"that the only way the fake
news media could demean"

"was by my use of the term
mission accomplished."

"It felt it is such a great military
term it should be brought back."

"Use often !" unquote.

It does not fill you with confidence
to have a president who announces,

"I know I'm repeating one of the most
notorious political blunders."

"Everyone should do it
and I'm gonna do it again forever."

If Trump's intention was
to descend so far into self parody

that he somehow
burrowed through the earth's crust

and came out the other side:
mission fucking accomplished.

And now, this !

Ari Melber, rap genius.

I don't know how much
hip-hop you listen to.

There's a famous song
"It's Going Down in the DM."

That refers to what happens
with direct messaging.

I don't know if you ever listened
to the rapper Kevin Gates who says,

"All my diamonds shining
'cause they're really diamonds."

Call it the Dr. Dre rule of politics.

When you diss Trump,
you diss yourself.

Lauryn Hill said,

"It ain't about what you cop,
it's about what you keep."

To paraphrase Kanye West you'll have
to wait for the 35th of Nevuary.

The thirty-fifth of Nevuary.

Kanye calls that
the thirty-fifth of Nevuary.

We're gonna run out
of our Kanye references.

Here's how the rapper Drake
explains that lesson:

"Ya can't listen to me talk
and then tell my story."

"Ya can't listen to me talk
and go tell my story, nah."

"It don't work like that
when ya love somebody."

There's a saying in hip-hop

that can apply to Russian meddling:
can't stop, won't stop.

My view is:
I am heavy on the beat.

Didn't I, didn't I,
didn't I tell you that.


Moving on.
Our main story tonight involves taxes.

Essentially, the government's
GoFundMe page.

Today is April 15th,

which means you have
just 45 minutes to file your taxes.

Except relax, don't panic. Because
thanks to the weekend and a holiday,

the deadline
is actually April 17th this year.

Except don't relax, do panic, that's
still not enough time to do it right.

You're absolutely fucked
and you're going to jail, Anthony.

Many people are perplexed
and mystified by our tax system,

perhaps best exemplified
by this Instagram video from Cardi B.

The government is taking
forty percent of my taxes.

Uncle Sam, I want to know what
you're doing with my fucking tax money.

What is y'all niggas doing
with my fucking money ?

What is y'all doing
with my fucking money ?

I want to know. I want receipts.
I want everything.

I want to know what is y'all niggas
doing with my fucking money ?

If you want to know
where your money's going,

may I present to you the recently
passed omnibus spending package !

It turns out your fuckin' money goes
to your fuckin' military, healthcare,

and your fuckin' social security and
veteran and unemployment benefits.

Everything else is some discretionary
shit and, of course, interest.

Now, as you may recall,
late last year, Republicans passed,

and Donald Trump signed,
a tax-reform bill.

Trump made some clear promises
about who stood to benefit.

Our focus is on helping the folks
who work in the mailrooms

and the machine shops of America.

The plumbers, the carpenters,
the cops, the teachers,

the truck drivers, the pipe fitters,
the people that like me best.

If this bill were really helping "the
people that like Donald Trump best,"

it would exclusively benefit
Eric Trump, Roseanne Barr,

and anyone who has ever looked
both ways before whispering:

"it was the Jews."

And, and the truth is,
for all Trump's talk of pipe-fitters,

the biggest tax rate cuts, by far,
actually goes to businesses,

with the top federal corporate tax
rate, the tax on a company's profits,

going from 35 percent
to just 21 percent.

And to be fair,
many policy makers, on both sides,

had argued
that the 35 percent federal rate

among the highest in the world,
should come down.

But: to be even fairer,
most companies didn't pay 35 percent.

In fact, before the bill was signed,
the "effective" rate,

the amount companies actually paid,
was closer to 24 percent.

And some large companies have
historically paid far less than that.

A few years ago,
people were furious about this.

G.E. had profits
of 14.2 billion dollars in 2010,

five billion dollars
of that made in the United States,

but the company's expected
U.S. tax bill ?

A grand total of zero dollars.

When the total is zero,
you can't call it a "grand total."

There is literally no total less grand,
except maybe Total cereal

and that's just because it tastes like
your spoon somehow missed the cereal

and now you're just
eating the box that it came in.

And, and G.E. may well say,
"Well, hold on that's just one year."

But, a recent study found that,
between 2008 and 2015,

18 large, profitable companies,
including General Electric,

paid no federal income tax
at all over the entire period.

None at all.
And that is a staggering total.

Which is what they used to call
"Total with Raisins,"

until they got more honest
and changed it to

"Total with Raisins
But Who Gives A Shit."

So tonight,
in honor of upcoming Tax Day,

we thought we'd give you a glimpse of
the lengths that companies will go to

to legally avoid taxes,
both here and abroad.

Corporate tax avoidance has a long
and infuriatingly proud history.

In the 1980s, for instance,
a lawyer named John Carroll, Jr.

came up with a tactic to move U.S.
companies offshore to avoid taxes,

and his firm celebrated him with,
and this is true,

a 13-minute operetta
staged in his New York apartment.

And I'll give you just a very
small taste.

The Feds will be screaming,
but you will be beaming

'cause we'll never pay taxes again.

We may have just found the only
musical resistant to race blind casting.

You can't go "Hamilton" on this one,

because those people really
have to be white.

Now, the tax dodge
being celebrated there

involved taking an American company
and headquartering it in Panama,

where taxes were lower,
"the Panama Scoot,"

which sounds like the name
of a tiny elf in a cowboy hat.

"Howdy. My name's Panama Scoot,
and I sleep in your boot !"

Offshore scooting is of a common
theme in corporate tax avoidance.

Companies have hunted for ways to get
their money to friendlier tax havens.

During the 2012 election,

it emerged that Mitt Romney had
money in companies in the Caymans,

which led to this magnificent clip
of John Stossel, saying the one thing

he probably shouldn't be saying
to the person he's speaking to.

Mitt Romney pays taxes on the money
earned from the Cayman entities.

I would think
it would be like pirate heaven.

Some pirate would go
and steal all the money.

Come on, Stossel !
Come on !

You can't say the word "pirate" to
a guy with an eye patch ! You can't !

It's like me sitting down across from
you and calling you "bootleg Geraldo."

Yes, it's obvious,
but it's also lazy and hurtful.

That's an indoor thought !

And, and tax havens have
become magnets to corporations,

who try and shift as much
of their profits there as possible.

It's a major reason why, in 2016,
nearly two-thirds

of the profits made by American
multinationals outside the U.S.

were booked in just six low
or zero-tax countries.

And it's a lot easier to move profits
offshore than you might think.

An increasingly popular way,
particularly pharmaceutical

and high tech companies like Google
avoid paying the thirty-five percent,

is to shift their patents,
computer code, pill formulas,

even logos from their U.S. bases
to their outpost in low tax countries.

Today, a company can move
all of its assets just on paper.

You then push a button
and move your algorithms...

Or Coca-Cola could
take their recipe out of the vaultý

- And put it in a Swiss vault.
- Then it's Swiss.

Yup. Coke could put their recipe
in a Swiss vault

and their profits
would move offshore.

That is very roughly how it works.

Just eing in a Swiss vault doesn't
automatically make something Swiss.

That's why we don't call this
"Swiss gold." We call it Nazi gold.

Those are Hitler bucks,
you Swiss fucks.

And this happens all the time,
and the best innovators

in weaselly accounting
have been tech companies.

Look at Apple.

For years, they've been deferring
paying U.S. taxes on foreign profits,

by stashing the money overseas
and not bringing it back.

At the end of last year,
they had $269 billion parked overseas.

When their CEO Tim Cook
appeared in front of Congress,

he was very defensive about that.

We pay all the taxes we owe
every single dollar.

We don't move
intellectual property offshore

and use it to sell our products back
to the United States to avoid taxes.

We don't stash money
on some Caribbean island.

He was technically correct there.

Because Apple didn't stash
their money on a "Caribbean" island.

They did, however, have it stashed
on this island, Ireland.

Which is, it is true,
not in the Caribbean.

So one word made
a lot of difference there.

It's like if somebody said,
"The one thing I can promise you"

"is that this refrigerator is not full
of severed Caribbean heads."

Maybe that is technically true,

but I'm still gonna pass
on the sparkling water.

When Ireland indicated
that it planned to change its tax laws,

Apple found a new shelter
for profits on this island,

the isle of Jersey,
a tax haven in the English Channel.

Which is, again,
not technically in the Caribbean.

Although, when you look at it,

you could almost mistake it
for the Caribbean

if you squint a little,
drink nine pints of beer,

and hold a picture
of the Caribbean in front of it.

Google used
a different tax workaround,

sending its money
on something of a world tour.

Google licensed some intellectual
property it created in the U.S.

to a subsidiary in Ireland.

But it turns out Google's overseas
profits don't even get taxed there

because Google then reportedly funnels
those profits through the Netherlands

and then to of all places, Bermuda
where the corporate tax rate is zero.

That tax trick has a name,
the Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich.

Sounds like a disgusting sex act

or an even more disgusting
Waffle House menu item.

It's when someone opens up
a baked potato, farts in it

and closes it again really quick,
that is exactly what it is.

When Google's CFO was asked
about their tax policies,

his answer nearly
got him laughed off the stage.

We pay all our taxes
in every jurisdiction

to the full extent
that the law allows us.

We pay every penny of tax we owe
to everybody, everywhere.

The reaction to "I pay all my taxes"
should never be incredulous laughter

unless you are a wealthy dog
who's just spoken for the first time.

I have some good news
and some bad news.

The good news is,
Trump's tax bill forces companies

to pay taxes on all the money
stashed overseas.

The hope is that they'll then
bring it home in "repatriation".

The bad news is, the tax they're
being forced to pay,

which may have once
been 35 percent, remember,

has been slashed to as
little as eight to 15 percent.

Seems less like a punishment

and more like rewarding
companies for tax avoidance.

But Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
and objectively good-looking man,

argued this would be a huge
benefit to America's workers.

We will have a one-time
tax on overseas profits,

which will bring back
trillions of dollars

that are offshore to be invested
here in the United States

to purchase capital
and to create jobs.

It was hard to pay attention
to what he was saying,

'cause you were automatically
undressing the guy with your eyes

and you do it whenever
he opens his mouth.

I'm definitely right. The guy's a
California ten. He's a smoke show.

What he's saying there is,
giving these companies a break

on the taxes they owe is worth it,
because it will lead to job creation.

Is hard to completely disprove,

because anything, theoretically,
could lead to jobs.

You can say "I'm dipping this
badger in fudge to create jobs !"

and I can't prove that you won't
create "any" jobs by doing that.

I would argue that, if creating
jobs is your main goal,

there are better ways to do it.

We have the benefit of a test case.
Because in 2004,

we did the exact same thing,
under the American Jobs Creation Act.

It offered a one-year "tax holiday"
where companies

could bring back overseas
profits at a 5 percent tax rate.

The idea was, that they
would then create jobs.

When the Senate looked
at the employment numbers

of the 15 companies that
brought back the most money,

this is what they found:
these are the average numbers

of U.S. jobs at those companies
over a five-year span.

Here is where the supposedly
job-creating tax holiday kicked in.

And that is underwhelming.
That's the most useless,

ineffective holiday
since Arbor Day.

I'm sorry, Arbor Day, but you're
Secretary's Day for trees.

Instead of hiring workers,
companies rewarded their shareholders,

using 94 cents out of every dollar
they brought home

on stock buybacks and dividends.

You can read about it
in the bestselling book:

No Fucking Shit They Did That"

by "Everyone Who Knows
Anything About Corporations."

For many companies, that may have
been the best use of their money.

No point in hiring
people you don't need.

The Trump administration
is insisting that this time,

their tax holiday is
already creating jobs.

Some companies seemed
happy to play along.

Apple put out a press release titled

"Apple accelerates
US investment and job creation",

bragging they were about to
create over 20 000 new jobs.

Trump was quick to take credit.

Trump tweeting in response:

"My policies would allow
companies like Apple to bring"

"massive amounts of money
back to the US".

"Great to see Apple follow through
as a result of TAX CUTS," all caps.

That is a solid read
from Jake Tapper there.

All anchors should be forced to shout
when Trump uses all caps in tweets.

This morning, the president
announced that he was, quote:

"heading to see the BORDER WALL
prototypes in California."

Or "Today the president wished all
Americans a HAPPY EASTER !"

Those 20 000 Apple jobs were
probably going to happen anyway,

given that the hiring was consistent
with what Apple was doing in the US

before the tax cut bill passed,
Tim Cook knows this.

This is how he responded when asked
how much of his hiring spree

was down
to Trump's new tax plan.

There are large parts of this that
are a result of the tax reform.

There's large parts of this that we
would have done in, in any situation.

I haven't spent a lot of time
in categorizing those two.

To me this is about America. It's not
about which bucket you put things in.

Yeah, but actually, it does matter
which bucket you put things in.

I would rather put things in a bucket
labeled "smart economic policy"

than one labeled "Put money in here.
I like money. Tim Cook."

There are legitimate debates
over how, and how much,

we should tax corporate profits.

We had a huge chance to reform
our tax code, and we blew it.

Effective tax reform is not
just about lowering rates,

it's about closing loopholes.

One reasonable idea was forcing
companies to pay a minimum tax

in every single country
they operate in.

Complicated, but that may have
reduced their abuse of tax havens.

That proposal never even
got out of committee.

Our tax code
is still full of loopholes

and however much Trump talked
about how tax reform

would benefit cops and pipefitters,
once he got behind closed doors,

his message changed.

President is still celebrating passage
of the Republican tax cut bill.

Sources with firsthand knowledge
tell CBS News

that he told a group of wealthy
people at his Mar-a-Lago estate,

quote: "You all
just got a lot richer."

On Tuesday, as you scrape together
your taxes, and, like Cardi B,

wonder what Uncle Sam is doing
with your motherfucking money,

rest assured that Trump's tax reform
continues to let companies engage

in tax-avoidance schemes.

To those companies I say this:
On behalf of America,

enjoy this double Irish
with a Dutch sandwich.

I made it for you myself. Eat it
while it's hot ! And now, this:

Ari Melber, rap genius volume two.
Just Jay-Z quotes.

But the press may need
to rethink this approach

and take some advice
from Jay-Z:

"We know the pain is real, but you
can't heal what you never reveal."

I don't know if you listen
to Jay-Z, he said:

"if money talks, the whole
world's about to hear me out."

Jay-Z said:
"either love me or leave me alone."

Jay-Z says: "what's better than
one billionaire ? Two."

As Jay-Z said: "men lie,
women lie, numbers don't lie."

A wise man told me
don't argue with fools,

'cause people from a distance
can't tell who's who.

Plead the fifth
when it comes to the fam,

I'm like a dog, I never speak
but I understand.

I'm not a businessman,
I'm a business, man.

Jay-Z always says:
"the streets is watching."

Nobody mentioned reasonable doubt.
You have to acquit if you have...

You mean Jay-Z's first album ?

Moving on. Finally tonight,
I'm going to talk about Alaska.

The state we purchased from the grizzly
bears for 50 pounds of salmon.

You stupid fucking bears.

We're gonna take a look at one
of Alaska's endangered resources.

One of Alaska's last Blockbuster stores
is closing to retail sales.

The latest closure follows multiple
Blockbusters shutting their doors.

The North Pole Blockbuster closed
in March, the Wasilla store in January

and the Eagle River location
last July.

We seem to be rapidly losing
something I didn't even know we had,

which is a weird feeling.

Like if Bigfoot walked
with a gun to his head,

saying he exists,
there were four of him,

but he murdered his wife and two kids
and he's not feeling great about it.

Don't do it !
We'll give you a second chance

if you just let us look at your big,
weird feet !

Despite the fact that Blockbuster
filed for bankruptcy in 2010,

there are four independently owned
franchises still operating in the US,

three of which are in Alaska.

Which makes sense because internet
coverage is sparse up there

and without unlimited data,
streaming has been expensive.

And to listen to an employee,
their presence is almost magical.

People come into the parking lot
to take pictures of the building.

People who come in and
they'll walk around like...

You know that person hasn't been
in a Blockbuster in a long time.

They'll also be like "I can't
believe you guys are still here !"

What a fun, but passive-aggressive
interaction that was:

I thought you has-been losers had been
thrown into the trash heap of history !

But you weren't ! Good for you !
I'm off to stream anything I want !

See ya later, punch line !

As internet coverage improves,

those few remaining Blockbusters
are under threat.

If only there were a fun, movie themed
way for them to draw people in,

the way that Planet Hollywood
sucks you in with the chance

to dine alongside the baseball mitt
that out-acted Madonna

in "A League of Their Own"
or Patrick Swayze's clay erection

from the movie "Ghost"
or Tom Cruise's original wife.

Incredible pieces of movie history.

There is no way for a Blockbuster in
Alaska to get memorabilia like that.

Or is there ?
Because a few weeks ago,

we told you about
"Russell Crowe: The Art of Divorce",

an auction in which he was selling
artifacts from his career,

from the "Gladiator" chariot,
to this leather jockstrap

he wore
in the film "Cinderella Man"

which was expected to
attract an ridiculous $500.

The auction
took place last weekend,

and no one paid
$500 for that jockstrap.

One of the more curious items that
went under the hammer

was a leather groin protector used
by Crowe in "Cinderella Man".

Sold for $7 000 to a telephone bidder,
not clear what they plan to use it for.

Holy shit ! $7 000 !

A big price to pay to find out what
Crowe's balls smelled like in 2005.

I'm guessing lilacs with just
a hint of spoiled venison.

There has been speculation
that we bought that jockstrap.

It does sound like something
that we would do:

buy Russell Crowe's jockstrap
and send it to one

of the last remaining
Blockbusters in Alaska.

Even that sentence is absolutely
incredible to say out loud.

The bad news is, we didn't do it.
I'm sorry. We didn't buy it.

We did though.

Except we did.
We absolutely did.

Are you not entertained ?

What we didn't do is
buy anything else at that auction.

Except we did though.
It was 4 AM over here.

You know what happens when you
start online shopping late at night.

You wake up the next day and you
think: "shit, what did I just buy ?"

This was very much
one of those times.

We didn't just get a jockstrap.

We got a bunch of pointless
Russell Crowe memorabilia

and I can think of no more fitting place
for them than an Alaskan Blockbuster.

Join me, for a guided tour.
First, come with me.

First: there is Crowe's director's
chair from "American Gangster".

A movie I had forgotten he was in.
But, he obviously remembered,

he not only took
the back from his chair,

he took the one from
Denzel Washington's as well.

Which obviously
we also bought.

By the way, Denzel Washington's
cost more than his.

You are probably thinking:
do you have one of Crowe's costumes ?

Something from "Gladiator" ?
Well, no.

But only because we got
something even better:

the vest he wore
in "Les Misérables !"

Yes, a movie which
"Tacky Vest Weekly" called:

"A triumph !" and that's
not the only costume !

We also got this hood he wore
in 2010's "Robin Hood".

Which looks like something
a circumcised penis would wear

to administer a lethal injection.

We know that Russell Crowe wore
a jockstrap in "Cinderella Man".

It is famously worth $7 000.
But that movie also featured

this satin robe and gym shorts !

I presume he did,
I presume it's featured them,

I've never seen "Cinderella Man",

despite now owning thousands of dollars
worth of props from it.

I'm never going to see it.
It is 13 dollars on Amazon.

Why would I pay 13 dollars to own
the movie "Cinderella Man ?"

An unforgivable waste of money.
Besides, I don't need to see it.

I've seen the jockstrap.
I basically get it.

To the manager of the only remaining
Blockbuster in Anchorage, Alaska,

at 5600 Debarr Road, number five,
all of this shit is yours.

Call us in the next 48 hours
and we will send it to you.

I hope the internet is good enough up
there for you to see this in time,

because if we do not hear from you
in the next two days,

I know a transportation museum
in Scranton, Pennsylvania,

that I am sure could make room
for a new exhibit.

That's our show, thank you.
See you next week.

Good night !
Are you not entertained ?