Who pays BP’s disaster bill? You do

If you thought the multi-billion dollar costs of destroying refineries and oil rigs (and killing workers, ruining livelihoods and wrecking the environment in the process), might have a chastening effect on BP, you might need to think again.

An entry in the blog of nationally syndicated US journalist Thom Hartmann notes: “It looks like the ironic outcome of the BP mess will come in the form of a truly poetic gesture that involves a middle finger offered by BP’s treasurer to British and American taxpayers.”

It cites the Financial Times, which reported that “BP is forecast to pay about $10bn less tax over the next four years as it meets the costs of its huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, hitting the revenues of Britain and the US that receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the company each year.”

Because the laws of both the US and the UK allow companies to deduct from their taxes what are called “business expenses” – and that includes cleaning up messes caused by doing business the wrong way, cutting corners and violating safety and environmental laws – “BP will transfer about a third of all their costs of dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster away from the company and directly onto the taxpayers of the US and the UK by deducting all these costs from their taxable profits,” says the blog.

The Financial Times noted: “Of its principal expected liabilities, only the fines that might be imposed by the US authorities would definitely not be tax-deductible.”

It’s one reasons why jail terms on the oil giant’s directors for their safety and environmental crimes might have a more salutary effect on BP’s boardroom behaviour. It would certainly be a rare bonus for the rest of us.

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