Atossa Araxia Abrahamian is a writer and an editor.
Taxes aren’t boring—they’re just supremely difficult to write about in a compelling way. These three stories stand out because they illustrate the far-reaching consequences of different countries’ tax policies through a few very influential people:
1. “Marty Sullivan figured out how the world’s biggest companies avoided billions in taxes. Here’s how he wants to stop them” (Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, 2013)
In his affectionate profile of tax expert Marty Sullivan, Steven Pearlstein breaks down everything that’s wrong about the US tax code in Sullivan’s nonpartisan, almost technocratic view—and goes on to explain why politics make it so hard to alter, let alone fix, the system. Not exactly action-movie material, but it’s handled so deftly that I couldn’t put it down.
2. “A Tale of Two Londons” (Nicholas Shaxson, Vanity Fair, 2013)
In Vanity Fair, longtime tax writer Nicholas Shaxson shows how the City of London became a hub for tax-free global capital through the story of One Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive residential building, its fabulously wealthy and faceless owners, and the offshore accounts they used to buy and register the properties anonymously.
3. “Man Making Ireland Tax Avoidance Hub Proves Local Hero” (Jesse Drucker, Bloomberg, 2013)
Finally, Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker profiles Feargal O’Rourke, the man who helped transform Ireland into a “hub for tax avoidance” for multinationals like Apple and Facebook. Drucker withholds judgment (this is Bloomberg, headline and all) but O’Rourke’s mercenary wiles shine through a few well-chosen anecdotes. Choice quote, on Breaking Bad: “I don’t know what it says that we can be rooting for a guy on the dark side of the law.”
Bonus Pick: Most Fascinating Thing I Learned from a Story This Year
“Twist-Ties vs. Plastic Clips: Tiny Titans Battle for the Bakery Aisle” (Paul Lukas, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2013)
My favorite business stories are the ones that reveal how much time, energy and thought goes into seemingly mundane consumer goods. This Businessweek article about the ‘bakery bag closure and reclosure market’ is a great example of that. Did you know bag closures generate about $10 million in sales per year? That studies have failed to resolve whether consumers prefer clips or twist-ties? And that there are people whose job it is to sell commercial bakeries on the virtues of these objects? All of this makes perfect sense, of course (hi, capitalism!) but it takes a story like this one to get you thinking.