The following was written by Jacob Swenson, a community activist and University of Chicago student.
At the Apple store on Michigan Avenue Monday, not everyone was looking to buy the latest version of the iPhone. Employees and customers alike were taken by surprise when, during the lunch hour break, more than 60 members of Fair Economy Illinois began chanting slogans such as “Apple, Apple you’re no good, pay your taxes like you should!”
As the they assembled on the large glass stairwell of the two-story building, activists held up signs that played off Apple’s own creative branding, saying, “iPaid my taxes, Apple should too” and “It doesn’t take a Genius to pay your taxes.”
While their signs and slogans were clever, the message they carried was serious. Holding a program in the center of the store, they highlighted Apple’s extensive use of offshore tax havens, which has gained notoriety after a Senate hearing in May, and called for a fair and transparent corporate tax policy in Illinois.
“[Apple] paid an effective tax rate of barely 7 percent in 2011,” said Toby Chow, a seminarian and member of the group, “while the rest of us pay [an average tax rate of] 15 to 20 percent to support services that we all need, from roads and bridges to police and fire protection. It’s outrageous that you and I pay, on average, three times as much in taxes as one of the wealthiest corporations in the nation.”
State Representatives Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Will Davis (D-Homewood) also addressed the crowd in the store. Rep. Davis emphasized the need to raise revenue as the state struggles to pay its bills and preserve investments in education, healthcare and other human services.
“Every year,” Davis said, “the state [of Illinois] loses roughly two billion dollars in tax revenue because of state corporate tax loopholes. And because of federal tax loopholes like the ones that Apple uses, Illinois loses an additional two billion dollars each year in federal revenue ... Four billion dollars a year would do a lot to help build communities with good schools and good jobs, with help and security for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Representatives Gabel and Davis joined members of Fair Economy Illinois in calling on lawmakers to pass two bills: HB 390, which would close three corporate tax loopholes and bring in nearly $450 million in revenue, and HB 3627, which would require corporations to disclose basic financial information to enable elected officials to craft an equitable corporate tax policy.
Representative Gabel even went a step further: “Call your Representatives,” she told on-lookers, “Tell them to pass these bills!”
Images: Chris Geovanis