Wal-Mart: Just pay your taxes

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In December the Guardian reported that:

Gordon Brown plans to harness at least 20 of the world's biggest multinational companies, including Google and Vodafone, to tackle a "development emergency" in the world's poorest countries and put the international community back on course to achieve seven UN development goals by 2015.

As a UN report released today shows limited progress in hitting goals intended to tackle poverty, education, health and sanitation, the prime minister has been holding talks with the internet and telecoms giants as well as other international companies including Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart in an attempt to find ways of increasing growth in poor countries.

Now the US Tax Prof Blog (which is highly recommended by me) says:

Wal-Mart has lost, at the summary judgment stage, its $33.5 million tax refund suit claiming that North Carolina had wrongfully treated its tax-reduction strategy of transferring ownership of its stores to 99%-owned Delaware-based REITs and then deducting rental payments to the REITs for North Carolina income tax purposes. The judge noted:

[Wal-Mart does] not deny the facts demonstrating the circular journey taken by the "rents" paid by these plaintiffs, but contend[s] that on each leg of the journey [Wal-Mart was] only taking advantage of a lawful deduction afforded them by then-existing tax law. Such a piecemeal approach exalts form over substance, however.

Well done that judge.

But more important is this message: Wal-Mart can best help solve poverty and support the MDGs by paying its taxes. It's not hard to work out. Why is it so hard to do?

And why doesn't Gordon Brown say that?