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Income Tax Quashed, Ballmer To Cash In Billions

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.

Government 650

theodp writes "Washington's proposed state income tax not only prompted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to spend $425,000 of his own money to help crush the measure at the polls, it also inspired Microsoft to launch a FUD campaign aimed at torpedoing the initiative. 'As an employer, we're concerned that I-1098 will make it harder to attract talent and create additional jobs in Washington state,' explained Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. 'We strongly support public education, but we're concerned by key details in I-1098. This initiative would give Washington one of the top five highest state income tax rates in the country. I-1098 would apply this tax rate to all income, including capital gains and dividends, and would not permit any deductions for charitable contributions.' Nice to see a company take a principled stand, backed by a CEO who's not afraid to put his money where his company's mouth is, right? Well, maybe not. Just three days after the measure went down in flames, Ballmer said in a statement that he plans to sell up to 75 million of his Microsoft shares by the end of the year to 'gain financial diversification and to assist in tax planning.' Based on Friday's closing price of $26.85, the 75M shares would be valued at approximately $2 billion. All of which might make a cynic question what was really important to Microsoft — public education, or a $2B state income tax-free payday for its CEO?"

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650 comments

No surprise (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148482)

A corporation is required to maximize the profits for its share holders. Ballmer is a major share holder. Of course Ballmer's profits matter more than public education.

I live in Seattle. (1, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148542)

Income tax or sales tax. One or the other. Not BOTH.

Personally, I'd support an income tax IF AND ONLY IF the sales tax was ended.

Re:I live in Seattle. (1, Insightful)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148590)

I am on the other side of that coin. I would support a sales tax across the board if income tax was eliminated. It would finally make it to where people paid their share based on what they spent. No more hiding money. People don't realize it, but the progressive tax system is broken, in favor of the rich. The cattle believe that if a sales tax was implemented instead it would hurt the average man at the benefit of the rich, when in reality the opposite is true.

Re:I live in Seattle. (5, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148738)

You are lying or out of your mind. A sales tax hurts low income people because they have to spend everything they make in order to live, and every cent they make is taxed. The rich can spend a tiny fraction of their income living in style, and keep the rest entirely tax free.

Anyone moderating his post as insightful is a moron.

Re:I live in Seattle. (1, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148780)

So issue a check to every citizen at the beginning of every month that's equal to spending the poverty level of income on stuff - e.g., 5% tax, $20k poverty line, you get $1000/yr from the government. Dead simple.

Re:I live in Seattle. (3, Informative)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148820)

If you eliminate income tax, sales tax will have to increase considerably. Probably around 10-15 percent. At that price, people would likely shop elsewhere to avoid the state's sales tax. Especially on expensive items. Again, only the rich would have the means to do this. So you end-up killing local businesses as well as hurting those who have limited income.

Re:I live in Seattle. (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148850)

Which means more cheapskates would come down to Portland to shop.

Re:I live in Seattle. (1, Insightful)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148818)

You, moron, need to read the national fairtax bill. It reduces the taxes on the poor to absolute 0. If you make below the poverty limit, you get a 100% refund of the taxes, with an increase for each dependent. If you did not work at all this year, you would get a refund of taxes up to the poverty limit, as if you had worked (the same refund, for doing nothing). So your argument is null. Under that tax system, the poor would pay absolutely nothing, and would even get paid, if they didn't work.

Now if you are rich on the other hand, the tax would apply to all kinds of luxury expenses. Buying a ferrari? Well then you are paying 23% of the purchase price in a tax. Buying a plane? The same.

By all means, keep supporting the progressive tax system. I will be more than happy to make millions I can keep shifting through tax loopholes because you are unwilling to close them. The reason a consumption tax is better, is because you can determine your tax overhead at the beginning of the year. No need to manage taxes for your employees paycheck, figure out your deductions, find tax credits, buy your car with your company, buy your vacation home as a company asset. It would no longer matter, because all of these things would become moot points. You would pay taxes on them, end of story.

Re:I live in Seattle. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148634)

as if like rich people and big companies pay taxes ...

Re:I live in Seattle. (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148698)

That will never happen. The state loves it's sales tax too much. I loved the absolutely baffled look on Christine Gregoire's face as she tried to fathom why people wouldn't "help us(the lawmakers) out" by passing new taxes.

Re:I live in Seattle. (-1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148748)

I live in wisconsin. I pay 6.5% sales tax. The Property tax on my $200k home is $6k/year. My income tax is almost triple what my federal income tax is. And for all this what do I get? Nothing. Our roads are worse than any of the states that border us. We have virtually no public transportation. Our water is polluted, they have to shut down wells all the time. I've got a hotel with prostitues and junkies patrolling out front just 1/4 mile from my house. The government will squander whatever you give them. The less we give them the better.

Re:No surprise (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148564)

No it's not. Not exactly. The board is meant to run it in the best interests of the company, but this is not always about maximising shareholder profit. For example, an ethical farming company could quite legitimately refuse to sell a parcel of land to a developer which would use the land for purposes counter to the ethics of the company, and could probably be sued by its shareholders if it didn't no matter how much the other company was willing to pay.

Re:No surprise (2, Insightful)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148664)

that may be true about not "maximizing" a profit but as soon as the company is not on the profit side the shareholders either sell their stock, or hire new management. At some point it IS after all a business - not much point in having it if its not profitable

Re:No surprise (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148694)

No it's not. Not exactly. The board is meant to run it in the best interests of the company, but this is not always about maximising shareholder profit.

Exactly. Like the O.P., people often spout this bit of misinformation: "A corporation is required to maximize the profits for its share holders" as if that corporations are required to push aside all ethical and moral considerations for the purpose of screwing the most cash out of anything they touch. It just isn't so, though it often ends up that way.

Re:No surprise (3, Informative)

es330td (964170) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148842)

The problem is that the person making that statement didn't get it quite right. From my professor of Managerial Economics: "The job of management is the LONG TERM maximization of shareholder wealth." This means that selling one's manufacturing equipment for a short term gain doesn't make sense because next year income will be zero. Likewise, it benefits the long term view for employer and employee to have cordial, versus adversarial, relations because the most productive, innovative workforce is the one that wants to come to work each each day. As a shareholder, I would hope that the management can wring every cent to the bottom line they can. I also expect, however, that they will not open the company to a future lawsuit in the process.

Re:No surprise (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148600)

Really, the only time a story in this vein would be news is if the CEO of a major publicly-traded American corporation did something that was obviously not self-serving -- and screwing over everyone for profit, then giving some of the money away doesn't count. A corporation's sole reason to exist is to maximize profits -- they even judge deaths they cause in their customers by the profits of saving them versus not saving them -- and the CEO is as close as you come to a sole representative of that lofty ideal.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148716)

How is that a troll? Are a lot of CEOs of publicly traded companies reading /. these days?

Re:No surprise (0, Troll)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148642)

Boil butterball in his own fat. There's plenty of it.

Someday, he will have Hell to pay - in the very literal, Dantean sense of the term.

Re:No surprise (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148798)

All of which might make a cynic question what was really important to Microsoft — public education, or a $2B state income tax-free payday for its CEO?"

Yes.

Re:No surprise (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148832)

Corporations exist to maximise the remuneration of management.

Ballmer and most of the senior executive are motivated by this principle far more than they are motivated by any supposed duty to the shareholders; who likely consist largely of HFT algorithms at this point.

Re:No surprise (0, Troll)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148866)

I have an idea. Let's have the government take ALL income from each according to his abilities, and redistribute to each according to his needs.

People don't need any other incentive than contributing to the welfare of others, government will handle all this ethically and without corruption, so let's get to it.

Well... (2, Insightful)

crumbz (41803) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148486)

...something is to be said for unenlightened self-interest. I am just not sure as to what.

Re:Well... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148704)

...something is to be said for unenlightened self-interest. I am just not sure as to what.

So, if giving more money to the government is actually "enlightened self-interest", how much extra do you send out of each paycheck?

If it's zero, you're a whiny, childish hypocrite.

He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148506)

Income tax is on income, not capital gains. He wouldn't have been paying income tax on his share sale anyway.

And his argument was that it would hurt his ability to attract talent. Unless by talent he meant himself I fail to see how what he does with his assets has to do with this issue.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148536)

I also fail to see the story. Ask any business manager and he will be against higher income taxes, in part because it makes it harder to attract new talent when your area has income tax higher than average. That means you have to PAY higher than average just to let the person break even on net bring home income. It doesn't so much matter WHAT the tax increase would be used for, as politicians have a habit of claiming that a tax increase is earmarked for a certain project, and in reality it just goes to the general fund.

Here in NC, they sold the idea of a lottery that way, the "education lottery", as "all the money will go toward education". Sure, and for each million in additional lottery money, they just cut the budget by a million, so the net effect is ZERO advantage to education and for all intent and purpose, the money goes into the general fund. But you can "feel good" about voting for the lottery, since it means you are thinking of the children. Politicians love new money, just as businessmen love low taxes.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148672)

Is the anybody that loves high taxes? (other than the people on the receiving end of that money)

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Insightful)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148724)

Depends, I'd love to hand minnesota ~$300 extra this year if it would help fix the damn roads, or build a train, or make the buses work(by work, i mean have enough routes to enough useful places at enough times and not turn a 30 minute drive into a 1 hour 45 min ride.)

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Insightful)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148772)

Yup, me. I pay pretty high taxes since most of my income is investment rather than employment income. So from an income tax perspective, I pay a fairly high rate, as my income is grossed up by some percentage, before it is taxed. I also pay sales tax on almost everything (13% HST, I live in Ontario). I'm young, healthy, I usually drive instead of taking public transportation, and when it comes to paying taxes, I'm all for it. Of course I'm a left leaning person who believes that civic and social responsibility are important features of a functioning democracy.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148782)

I also fail to see the story. Ask any business manager and he will be against higher income taxes, in part because it makes it harder to attract new talent when your area has income tax higher than average.

I don't think the point is about Ballmer opposing the tax increase. You're right, that would be obvious. I think the point was about the political process being so manipulable: he was able to invest a few hundred thousand dollars to avoid having to pay a few tens of millions in taxes (which the state could probably use pretty badly right about now). Hopefully I-1098 was actually a bad idea, because otherwise Ballmer just scammed the Washington electorate.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148538)

Income tax is on income, not capital gains. He wouldn't have been paying income tax on his share sale anyway.

You didn't even make it through the entire summary, then. It said "I-1098 would apply this tax rate to all income, including capital gains and dividends".

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148566)

If you would have read above, you would see the tax DOES apply to capital gains. Also, it applies to anyone who makes more than 200,000 a year, so it would hurt his ability to recruit management employees.

Not really trying to start a war, but people should actually read before they post. The capital gains part is right in front of your face in the paragraph above.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148742)

ohh right and 200k is such a small amount of money. I could have lived for my last ~3 years, if not more, on 200k. I would love to be making 200k a year, I could probably pay my student loan off in 3 months that way...

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (4, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148592)

Stop using logic when Slashdot is having its 2 minutes of hate for Microsoft! And for the love of There-is-no-God don't point out the fact that Ballmer will be paying more $$ to the Federal goverment in Capital Gains taxes in this one transaction than all of the collective readers of this Slashdot story will pay in any form of taxes for their entire lives combined. Ballmer is rich, and therefore must have stolen the money from the Government! Anyone who makes more money than the Slashdot poster bashing the rich is automatically an evil rich bastard!*

* (Exceptions apply to CEO's of companies we are fanboys of, and billionares who dump money on left-wing "grassroots" causes like Moveon.org, with an exception-to-the-exception being Bill Gates who is still evil even though he dumps money on causes that the group would approve of if anyone else dumped the money)

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (2, Funny)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148638)

hahaha. great.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148678)

And his argument was that it would hurt his ability to attract talent. Unless by talent he meant himself I fail to see how what he does with his assets has to do with this issue.

You feel to see how it shows the whole "attracting talent" angle was a pretext?

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148860)

You feel to see how it shows the whole "attracting talent" angle was a pretext?

*fail to see

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148688)

Income tax is on income, not capital gains. He wouldn't have been paying income tax on his share sale anyway.

And his argument was that it would hurt his ability to attract talent. Unless by talent he meant himself I fail to see how what he does with his assets has to do with this issue.

Shares he has received as executive compensation can qualify as income and be taxed at the income tax rate depending on certain qualifications for how the recieving of hte shares was structured.

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1, Offtopic)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148710)

Income tax is on income, not capital gains. He wouldn't have been paying income tax on his share sale anyway.

Capital gains are a form of income. Let me ask you this: when you realize capital gains, do you have more money than you did before? Then it's income, because that's the definition of income: money coming in. They're only treated separately from "earned income" by a statutory distinction (particularly in the federal tax code), not because they're fundamentally a different animal. Also, RTFS, "I-1098 would apply this tax rate to all income, including capital gains and dividends..."

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148754)

Congratulations! You've just been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Stupidest Score:5, Insightful post in the history of Slashdot!"

Re:He wouldn't be paying income tax on that (1)

svartbjorn (1900302) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148794)

But if congress allows the Bush tax cuts to expire he will take a big hit on Capital Gains if he Doesn't sell before the end of the year. Also, would the State income tax he helped quash be effective ion 2010 income? I'm guessing unlikely. His plan is much more oriented to Federal capital gains is my guess. And by the way, watch your portfolio in December because more than he will be looking to "diversify" which will lead to a big selloff. Which Pelosi will undoubtedlysay was because people are afraid of the Republicans being in congress again. You heard it here first!

Why should he...? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148508)

Why should he pay the bill for the rest of the low lifes in the state who will never pay in as much as he has. State welfare has to end, not fair to punish those who DO PAY.

Re:Why should he...? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148662)

State welfare has to end, not fair to punish those who DO PAY.

So no more bailouts ?

Re:Why should he...? (1)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148734)

State welfare has to end, not fair to punish those who DO PAY.

So no more bailouts ?

I am good with that. Bailouts are a waste of money that do nothing. These businesses made their decisions, so let them deal with the consequences. If that means failing, let them fail. Laissez faire :)

Re:Why should he...? (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148768)

Can i have my bank bailout money, my GM money and 1/2 of the senates salary back so that I could build a working mass transit system please then? I mean with the way lobbying works, I'm surprised that they even need a salary.

And so what? (3, Interesting)

Flozzin (626330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148510)

Just because the CEO then uses the tax free environment he helped create the article questions his intentions? Of course it was going to benefit him greatly, and just because it does, doesn't make any of the prior points against the tax less valid. Its his money, he worked for it. Get over it.

Re:And so what? (2, Insightful)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148540)

He did not work for it... sorry. That is trivializing what it means to work for your money. And most importantly, this is a clear example where money and corporate wealth need to be abolished all together from our rules of governance.

Re:And so what? (1)

Flozzin (626330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148554)

As CEO his decisions, his actions, in his job directly effect stock prices. How didn't he work for it? He has a huge impact on the share price. He sure as heck worked for it.

Re:And so what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148596)

He sure as heck worked for it.

there are billions of people working harder than him, for pennies a day. Hard work has nothing to do with that amount of money.

Re:And so what? (0)

pgmrdlm (1642279) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148864)

there are billions of people working harder than him, for pennies a day. Hard work has nothing to do with that amount of money.

And that statement can be easily applied to every single poster on this web site. Want to bet that we all don't want higher taxes? Or what, because Balmer makes more than us his value to society is less.

Re:And so what? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148650)

I think, if you're going to say he's responsible for all of the company's income, then you have to have a control to compare him to. Just because he's a top decision maker for a huge company doesn't mean he's actually benefiting the company.

I think, if you're going to talk about bonuses, you should have to show why the decisions you made were more beneficial to the company than simply having a trained monkey pull levers. If I was a shareholder, that's what I'd be demanding.

Re:And so what? (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148666)

I still have to peacefully object here - Working for something entails intention that is honorable, and done with integrity. Otherwise, they often call it thievery when you cross the line too far, like taking your neighbors TV. Gaming /Influencing the system is not working for "it", or anything for that matter - Intentions are everything here, IMHO; especially when you are responsible for a very large asset, capital market share and critical products in some cases, thousands of people that work for you, and overall impact on the local community to which you serve.

I consider influencing the outset of governing rules during an election stealing the mind share of those that would have reasonable felt otherwise - In fact, I would say that about EVERY negative/slighted ad you saw this past election. Its a down right crime, not just disingenuous. Its defamation, out right lying, and inciting riots all rolled into one. Look, if you make the money, pay the taxes - its that simple. I would kill to pay 400k in taxes - it means I made a shitload, and really didn't need to make anymore.

Re:And so what? (1)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148756)

I would kill to pay 400k in taxes - it means I made a shitload, and really didn't need to make anymore.

So you wouldn't progressively offset the cost of your tax increase on your customers or employees? Remember that 400k in taxes you paid came from collections you made from others, do you feel they deserve to pay it?

Re:And so what? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148752)

There are a bunch of guys who will never in a lifetime see cumulative pay as large as this one of many windfalls for Ballmer. Millions of lives and trillions of dollars rest on their decisions when operating nuclear reactors, loading atomic weapons on bombers, and even in preventing bugs in Microsoft products from causing a meltdown. Isn't that worth much more?

There are millions of people who would willingly trade jobs with Ballmer even if they kept their current level of pay.

Ballmer simply found an in to the exclusive club where people vote each other pay raises repeatedly.

There are only so many hours in the day. The average person works for 8 of them and takes about 40K/year for it. The question is how DID he possibly work enough to warrant even a fraction of two billion dollars? Itr would seem he might have topped out at 100K assuming he slept in his office and only needed 4 hours/night.

Re:And so what? (4, Insightful)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148586)

While Ballmer may not be a corporate superhero from an Ayn Rand fairytale, I have no reason to believe that he did not work for his money, nor have you presented evidence to the contrary. If he has money that he did not inherit, where do you suppose it came from? Did he steal it? Would you mind pointing to some rich people who did work for their money? Of these, which ones deserve to keep their money and which ones deserve to have it taxed away? Or do they all, by virtue of having more money, need to have more taken away?

Re:And so what? (2, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148784)

I have no reason to believe that he did not work for his money

What exactly has "work" been like for Ballmer these past 10-15 years, anyway?

Has it been anything like the "work" that you and I might know? The kowtowing to tyrannical bosses? The ridiculous hoop jumping and bureaucracies, the ceaseless busywork and minutiae, the pressure to "do more with less", putting up with substandard and inadequate facilities and resources, working late hours and riding public transportation back to an Ikea-furnished apartment?

Or has Steve Ballmer's work been...different...a series of trips taken in a private jet, being driven in a limousine from the jet stairs to the luxury hotel accommodations where he'd stay? Dining out at four-star restaurants? Sitting in an expansive office on luxury furniture, droning on to subordinates before driving a company-reimbursed luxury automobile back to a large luxury home, attended to by a professional staff of gardners, housekeepers and dining on a meal prepared by a professional chef?

Yeah, you're right. He has been working hard. And sacrificing. Cut him that $2 billion check. He deserves it.

Re:And so what? (1)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148848)

He's rich. Of course he leads a rich lifestyle. You're saying that because he benefits from his current wealth he hasn't worked for it, doesn't work for it, and doesn't deserve it? The real question is: does the government deserve the money more?

Re:And so what? (3, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148546)

There's nothing socialists hate worse that failing to get their hands on someone else's money.

Re:And so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148668)

Microsoft is a convicted monopoly. These are ill gotten gains. A socialist will tax you above board to get your money. A capitalist will commit fraud and manipulate the law to make it legal. Or will use eminent domain or asset forfeiture to get the government to take it from you.

Re:And so what? (2, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148844)

A capitalist will commit fraud and manipulate the law to make it legal. Or will use eminent domain or asset forfeiture to get the government to take it from you.

What you described is not capitalism. Just because a bunch of statist pricks have hijacked the term doesn't mean the meaning of capitalism has changed.

Sound education... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148516)

Well, folks the public IS getting educated here. Education on how to manipulate the political system for personal gain, that is.

Cynical? Its a corporation the answer is obvious (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148518)

It's not as if Gates's philanthropy is a mantra of MS as a whole. It answers directly to the shareholders most of which could care less what impact things like this have on the state...as long as it doesnt effect their net worth.

Thats not income (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148526)

Surely income from share sales would be subject to capital gains tax not income tax, or whatever the USA calls it?

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148534)

I'm amazed that one person would own 75M shares of ANY company. He's damned right he needs to diversify. And since no one else in WA state has to pay state income taxes, I don't see why Ballmer not paying a nonexistent state tax is even an issue. I guarantee no one who lives in WA state is bitching about not having to pay a state income tax. Furthermore, it's not all that uncommon to do a bunch of financial rearranging at the end of the year before new taxes take effect. Any person with at least half a brain does whatever they can to minimize their tax exposure. No, liberals, paying taxes to the government does not count as an act of charity.

Clearly, public education needs help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148548)

As studies show many Americans can't tell income from capital gains.

Re:Clearly, public education needs help (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148670)

Clearly. Many Americans would also be shocked to learn that the "evil" Bush tax cuts for the rich also cut the capital gains tax rate, which happens to apply to any gain any American realizes when they sell their home. "What's that you say? Selling real estate and investing in the stock market isn't just for the rich? Well I'll be damned..."

It's ironic to me that Progressivism is really all about a return to serfdom. Did anyone happen to catch the tone of liberal media stories this past summer (NPR specifically comes to mind), trying to plant the seed in our heads that perhaps the idea of home ownership is past its time and that more Americans really should be renting? So we have a situation where progressives are actually advocating that more people pay more of their hard-earned money into the hands of a few wealthy property owners. Gee, how progressive. That's about as progressive as Prohibition and the eugenics movement (thanks for those gems, btw, Progressives). That doesn't sound like a future that I want any part of.

There's more to it. (4, Interesting)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148560)

The biggest reason why I-1098 didn't pass has little to do with Ballmer. I believe the biggest reason was that in only two years the law makers could modify the tax to include all Washington tax payers, not just the rich. There is quite a large distrust of the spending habits of the progressive law makers here so 60% plus of voters decided not to risk it.

Re:There's more to it. (3, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148602)

Which is exactly what happened with the federal income tax - originally it was just a 1% tax on the "evil rich" and then the government kept taking more and more money from more and more people. It's good to see that the people in Washington learned from history and didn't let the bill pass.

Also, income taxes are a very inefficient form of taxation because it discourages people from working (Economist Gregory Mankiw wrote an article in the NY Times recently about this). Consumption taxes (sales tax) are much more efficient and fair system of taxation.

Re:There's more to it. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148656)

That argument is, quite frankly, trash. Consumption taxes hit those who spend their entire paycheck the hardest - ie the poorest members of society. The rich can buy from abroad, or do a hundred other things to avoid a consumption tax. It's pathetic to say that income taxes discourage people from working - ask the unemployed if it's the worry of income tax or the lack of available jobs and training that's keeping them from working. You might be shocked by the results.

Re:There's more to it. (2, Informative)

ltlasset (1830976) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148700)

If you would read the proposed national bill, it refunds 100% of the consumption tax to everyone making below the poverty limit, with an increasing amount for each dependent. Even if you are unemployed you would get a refund equal to the amount you would have paid, if you had worked. This effectively reduces the tax burden of the poor to absolute 0, and even gives them money had they not worked. I love how politicians (mainly democrats) who don't support it say it will hurt the poor. The reality is, if this bill passed it would help everyone, and politicians could no longer play class warfare with taxes. Why would a politician give away his greatest tool? Especially a group of politicians so dependent on the poor.

Re:There's more to it. (2, Interesting)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148824)

But there is a pitfall my friend - and I think this is the angle the Dems take - unless of course you completely remove corporate influence - no more lobbying by companies, no more donations, no more money at all, if you own one, you cant serve in government at any level, but you get your one vote - as CITIZENS. Roll back the 1973 laws that grant companies individual status, let alone the recent Supreme court decision. Otherwise, the Poor will be hurt more - through governance completely at the mercy of corporations in a consumer -required economy.

If we seriously want to move in this direction, we need to first remove all the potential, and current, corruption that already exists.

If we can, I think the best capitalist markets are those best suited for being oriented toward such a tax-governance approach; but you cant let the fox guard the hen house.

Re:There's more to it. (3, Insightful)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148830)

So the ones hit the worst are the poor and lower middle class. How is that any better?

Re:There's more to it. (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148658)

The funny part of it was that they tried to stick and carrot the people with removing the state property tax if the initiative passed. Thankfully people realized that they would most like end up being frogs in a pot of water getting slowly warmer.

Re:There's more to it. (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148714)

Yes - agreed - we should be taxed on our actions in consumption, not when earning an honest living. However, we need to remove the conflict of interest then from our governing bodies - corporations and their money and influence, cause after all, their stuff we consume - even at a local level, this would remain to be true. Does everybody run a company or dream of that thees days? No to both.

Re:There's more to it. (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148804)

Also, income taxes are a very inefficient form of taxation because it discourages people from working (Economist Gregory Mankiw wrote an article in the NY Times recently about this).

Yes, but are you aware that three out of Mankiw's Ten Principles of Economics can just be rephrased as "Blah blah blah?" [youtube.com]

Re:There's more to it. (3, Insightful)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148854)

Also, income taxes are a very inefficient form of taxation because it discourages people from working (Economist Gregory Mankiw wrote an article in the NY Times recently about this). Consumption taxes (sales tax) are much more efficient and fair system of taxation.

Consumption taxes mostly affect the poor. Why? Because they spend a larger fraction of their income on goods. So in that sense it's a much more unfair tax. On the other hand, concerning the argument that an income tax discourages from working: with an income tax you have more money if you work more. How's that discouraging? Could you expand on Mankiw's argument?

Not just Microsoft (4, Informative)

schnell (163007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148570)

It wasn't just Steve Ballmer or Microsoft fighting I-1098 ... this measure was very unpopular all across Washington State and failed at the polls by a 65% - 35% margin [ballotpedia.org] . Washington State is one of the few states in the US without a personal income tax (the sales taxes here are very high to make up for the revenue deficiency). I-1098 would have introduced a personal income tax on the "richest" residents (those making over $200K individually or $400K as a family), but the reason it failed by such a wide margin is that most Washington residents (including me) believed that once they introduced a personal state income tax here, the politicians would plead "necessity" and keep lowering the threshhold over time to the point where most residents would be paying it, and without any decrease of the sales tax to compensate. The majority of the population here is all in favor of education and healthcare, we just don't believe that a state income tax is the way to fund them.

FWIW, Microsoft and other large businesses in Seattle do have a legitimate interest in avoiding a personal state income tax, as for recruiting and keeping high-priced talent there is an advantage for them to come to Redmond and live in a state with no income tax vs. going to some other company - say, in California - and paying the tax rates there. An equivalent pay job offer in the Seattle area vs. many other states actually means more take-home pay here.

Re:Not just Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148684)

This (lowering the threshold over time) is the reason I voted against it. And as someone else pointed out, Capital Gains != Income. The author sounds bitter that Allen is rich and they're not. Try creating something, instead of looting from others. It's surprising how happy accomplishment will make you feel.

If they want to fund education they should use lottery/lotto money. Since that's how it was originally sold to us, it seems only fitting. But do they? Technically, yes. But, as the years have gone on, it is used to fund more non-education items than it does education. Then last year they raided the entire education allotment for the General Fund. Now they need education money? F--- that!

Our legislators are far too tax happy for me to let them have anymore leeway. They've already demonstrated a 30+ year track record to me on their inability to manage money responsibly.

Re:Not just Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148708)

So then what way should it be funded?

Re:Not just Microsoft (1)

jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148736)

And the sales tax is still no worse than here in Chicago, where we have income tax and about 50% higher property tax if I'm figuring it right. It really makes Seattle noticeably more attractive.

Re:Not just Microsoft (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148740)

The talent argument is weak at best... Too many examples to cite of where companies in states with income tax that have arguably better talent that MS...

Re:Not just Microsoft (1)

jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148840)

It doesn't make it impossible to attract talent. But all things being equal, would you like to make 3% more money? 5% more?

http://arlingtonmassachusettsrealestate.com/ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148578)

http://arlingtonmassachusettsrealestate.com/

Microsoft's Lost Decade (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148580)

It is staggering to look back at the decade Ballmer has been in charge:

* Stock price has been effectively flat for an entire decade

* Lost hundreds of billions in market cap since Gates left

* The cellphone market failure

* The Xbox fiasco

* The search market failure

* The online services failure

* The portable music market failure

* IE's stagnation and market-share shrinkage

* The resurgence of OS X market-share

If Ballmer is soon to get dumped from the top spot at Microsoft it is bad news for Linux and Apple whoever replaces him can't possibly do any worse than Ballmer's disastrous decade at the helm.

Re:Microsoft's Lost Decade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148732)

Not to argue with the rest of your list, but most companies would love to have the XBox "problem".

I can't count how many people I've read who after returning the thing for RROD (sometimes more than once) have had it go out of warranty and actually buy another one. Dignity be damned, the thing is so good that the amazing failure rates haven't stopped the 360 from being the greatest console of this generation. Not only that, Microsoft is printing cash with the XBox Gold memberships.

I really expected the first XBox to flop, but Microsoft has built success upon success with the 360. Now people are raving about the Kinect while their Wii's gather dust.

Re:Microsoft's Lost Decade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148766)

It should scare the shit out of Linux and Mac owners to think that they won't be able count on Ballmer to screw things up for Microsoft. An actually competent CEO with the resources generate by the existing OS and office software monopolies will be a formidable force instead of the pathetic has been that Microsoft is seen as now by the computing world.

Apathas (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148582)

Because giving government unlimited access money will solve their budget shortfalls. State government is not had a income problem, they have a spending problem, when everyone else is cutting back, they have been ramping up their spending.

Makes sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148614)

Any company with a large presence in Washington would feel the same way. This is an issue with corporate America in general, not Microsoft in particular. I have a hard time believing that anybody leaving negative comments here wouldn't behave the same way if placed in a similar situation.

FUD? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148626)

So pointing out that areas that have higher taxation may not be able to get the best talents available to come to said area is now FUD? Wow. Just wow.

Re:FUD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148718)

Yes, like the bay area in CA. They can't attract any talent. Bummer man.

Re:FUD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148806)

Taxes are non-existent in the Libertarian paradise of Somalia.

What does this say about his future? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148630)

The timing of this sale is interesting not because of the defeat of the recent measure but the departure of the Ozzie, Allard, and Bach this year. Incidentally 75 million is the full amount of his sale. He's sold 49 million [electronista.com] of the shares already. My opinion is that he's run out of people to blame or they were smart enough not to stick around to be blamed. It was disclosed that his bonus was cut in half [examiner.com] this year because of the decline of Windows Mobile in the market place and the failure that was the Kin. After the dot com crash of 2000, MS stock has never passed $40 a share for his entire tenure, staying mostly in the mid 20s. Even though MS is highly profitable, the board may feel that MS cannot grow with him at the helm.

See? The system works (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148632)

Exactly as designed. Yay democracy!

419? (4, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148636)

As a Nigerian, I am deeply jelous of your corruption!

Your elegant use of the Post Hoc Fallacy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148674)

in the articles headline is almost as enlightened as your 'think of the children' rich CEO witch hunt. well done sir.

The other way to look at this... (3, Insightful)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148690)

Is that the biggest rat is deserting the sinking ship.

The payday comment is a lie (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148706)

> ...a $2B state income tax-free payday for its CEO...

He is selling the stock this year. The new income tax wouldn't be retroactively applied to this year. Whether it passes or not, it has no effect on the sale. Why lie and try to make it appear that they do? Your agenda is showing.

Slashdot:blog postings disguised as news summaries (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148744)

[...] Nice to see a company take a principled stand, backed by a CEO who's not afraid to put his money where his company's mouth is, right? Well, maybe not. Just three days after the measure went down in flames, [...]

I'm really tired of blog postings being accepted as summaries of news, complete with sarcastic comments embedded. This is just one example. If I want to read blogs, I know where to find them. I come here to read summaries of news items, and discussion about them. If someone submitting a story wants to share his opinion (everyone's got one), he can do so in the discussion. If he thinks his opinion is so noteworthy that it deserves special attention, he can start a blog and mix his opinion with everything. There's value in having a neutral summary of the news event.

If not income tax then what (-1, Troll)

jerryHeinz (1000168) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148750)

When did greed stop being a bad thing? These people are worth billions - how much do you really need 1,2,3,4 billion? In a galaxy far far away the income tax was introduced solely because there were people that were super duper rich in comparison to the middle class and it was thought they could afford to pay a higher share. Besides the greed microsoft and other tech companies complain (rightly so) about the state of education in this country. So they want better educated potential employees but don't want to pay for it - welcome to now - we'll lower taxes, cut the deficit, improve your education. It appears that those who run technology don't only believe technology can solve our problems but magic can work too?

Gates vs. Ballmer (4, Informative)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148812)

The summary should have mentioned that the tax proposal was authored by Bill Gates Sr., and was supported by Bill Gates Jr., which is some pretty good evidence that Gates Jr. really has managed to separate himself from Microsoft.

As to why Ballmer is selling now, there's a pretty good chance it was for tax planning purposes. Many think there's a high chance the capital gains rate is going up soon, and so taking long term capital gains this year is indicated.

Wait-and-see Timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148852)

I think that Ballmer meant to sell off 2B whether or not this passed. But can you imagine what his letter would have said if the tax was enacted? Here's my guess.

Dear Washington State,
You've decided to tax our companies. So I've decided to move my money before the tax comes into effect.
Love, Ballmer.

/idle thoughts
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