29 September 2020

BuzzFeed News: “Twitter will allow Employees to Work at Home Forever”

Twitter encouraged its employees to start working from home in early March as the coronavirus began to spread across the US. Several other tech companies did the same, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

That month, Twitter human resources head Jennifer Christie told BuzzFeed News the company would “never probably be the same” in the structure of its work. “People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way”, Christie said. “Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”

Dorsey had announced the company’s intent to work in a “distributed” way before the virus, but the pandemic forced the company to move the timeline up.

Alex Kantrowitz

A positive move, for both the company and the employees. My cynical side would continue that the pandemic came with several unexpected opportunities for Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey. The generalized economic disruption offers a convenient excuse if the company does not meet the performance targets agreed with Elliott Management in early spring, just before the pandemic started. The forced switch to full-time work from home, extended indefinitely in May, allows Dorsey’s companies to drastically scale back their office spaces in expensive San Francisco, and to potentially reduce their tax bill. And since all employees can work remotely, it gives Jack Dorsey a pass on his plan to move to Africa, which was widely criticized.

Speaking of San Francisco and its local taxes, an important story from 2018 that I failed to write about at the time was a tax change that was opposed by Square and Jack Dorsey. No wonder many companies are considering relocating their headquarters elsewhere: the new tax looks confusing and discriminatory, leading to double taxation and unnecessary complications – much as the rest of the US tax system.

There’s one other issue with the gross receipts tax worth mentioning. If I were to pay Ramona the Love Terrier’s pet groomer with a Wells Fargo Visa card, the groomer pays tax to the city based on that sum. Square charges a fee to process that payment; that fee adds to Square’s gross receipts, on which it is also taxed. It pays a portion of that to Wells Fargo and Visa, which are also San Francisco companies, and — well, you guessed it. Critics of gross receipts tax point out that taxing a transaction so many times adds to businesses’ costs, which get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. That’s why Europe, Canada and other places have largely gone with value-added taxes, which seek to avoid those rounds of taxation.

Owen Thomas

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