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Ireland, Apple and the three-comma club

Thursday, 1 September, 2016

Definition via the Silicon Valley Dictionary: “Three commas to imply a billion dollars as $1,000,000,000 has 3 commas. To be in the three commas club is to be a billionaire.” In the wild, as it were, the term was spotted last month in the Wall Street Journal in an article by Veronica Dagher titled “The Rich Get Richer as Billionaires Increase in Number.” Here’s the usage: “For most billionaires, however, it takes more than an inheritance to join the so-called three-comma club.”

The three-comma club and the meaning of membership made a memorable appearance in the HBO series Silicon Valley, Season Two, Episode Seven:

And now, Ireland and its three-comma Apple tax windfall. Most countries don’t tax non-residents so there’s a constant enticement for states like Panama to offer a low-tax environment and attract the world’s richest people. Similarly, Ireland lures the world’s biggest corporations by having lower taxes than other EU countries and Switzerland tempts wealthy people with a negotiated annual tax payment. So, unless there’s a global wealth tax collected by a world government, rich bastards will keep getting richer. After all, the rich can afford the best financial advisors and thus earn a higher return on investment than non-rich people. But life’s not fair, so taxation utopianism remains an illusion. For Ireland, this means back to basics.

“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities.” — Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations


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