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The Price We Pay

“This well-crafted documentary from director Harold Crooks offers a concise, engrossing and occasionally infuriating overview of the ways multinationals avoid taxes by stashing profits in offshore havens — and in the process, seriously undermine the ability of governments to provide services and safety nets for citizens.

“Crooks has assembled an impressively diverse array of talking heads, many of whom repeatedly emphasize that the tax-dodging and loophole-exploiting practices examined here are, for the most part, perfectly legal. With the system so cunningly rigged, an interviewee pointedly asks, “Why bother with illegalities?”

“It’s a system whose beginnings Crooks traces back to the post-WWII U.K. From the 1980s onward, one thing led to another until multinationals had access to several territories where they could relocate headquarters (or at least establish legal addresses) and enjoy maximum benefits of minimal taxation. By the end of 2010, according to a Tax Justice Network report cited here, somewhere between 10% to 15% of the world’s wealth was safely tucked away in offshore tax havens.

“The Price We Pay focuses on the fallout of this “tax inversion,” vividly illustrating how income disparity in North America and elsewhere has drastically increased, and how a steadily shrinking middle class is being hit with the triple whammy of diminished employment prospects, heavier tax burdens and fewer protections thanks to an economic system skewed toward the increased enrichment of One Percenters.

“Author, tax expert and co-scripter Brigitte Alepin goes so far as to posit that society has come “full circle” since the era of the French Revolution. Others warn that economic inequities will only serve to fuel more movements like Occupy Wall Street, and might even pose an existential threat to capitalism itself.

“The Price We Pay offers a few suggestions for remedies but even the most optimistic interviewees point out that it will require cooperation between governments to counterbalance the power and influence of multinationals. And as long as countries compete against other countries for jobs and private investments, such co-operation will be difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve and sustain.” - Joe Leydon, Variety

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