Geopolitical Sustentation 33: Taxation

As we stated in our original damnation post, taxation may be the only certainty left (especially if the futurists who think that cybernetics will eventually allow us to preserve our mind and live forever are right). Even if your current government(al system) fails, a new order will rise up and, like every order that has come before, in some way, shape, or form, it will tax you.

And, as clearly pointed out in our original post, taxation makes it nearly impossible to answer the ultimate sourcing question: what is the lowest cost of ownership and the best overall total value. When we source according to total value management, we want to maximize the value to cost ratio — but this can only be done when we understand the cost.

And when so much of the cost is taxes — sales taxes, export taxes, import taxes, special surtaxes, state or municipal taxes on top of federal sales taxes, and so on — and when all of these taxes can change almost overnight, how do you answer the ultimate sourcing question? For example, some countries in South America change their import tariff codes twice a week. Taxes generally change when consortiums or labour groups cry foul when a market is flooded with cheaper goods from a foreign market or “buy at home” lobbyists get upset that the best products are being exported and stir up a fuss.

When a 10% duty today can be a 30% duty tomorrow, how do you build accurate cost models that allow you to create three year plans and cut three year contracts? The answer is, you don’t. So what do you do?

Gather a lot of market intelligence and analyze it. Taxes for most of the products or services you are buying are usually going to fall into one of three categories:

  • stable
  • trending, with significance confidence as to approximate future prices, up or down
  • changing unpredictably

If the tax rate is stable, then the organization can take confidence that it will most likely be stable for the life of the contract and put a tax increase in the low risk category and, more or less, ignore it unless an event occurs or information is obtained that something might change.

If the tax rate is trending up or down, then you can do what-if analysis at different tax rates defined as now, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, contract length to see at what point the lowest cost or highest value buy tips to another market and if that will happen in the first half of a contract period, work with a potential supplier in a market with a stable or lower tax rate to see if there are other cost reductions that would make the other supplier a lower cost over the expected contract length.

If the tax rate is unpredictable, and could increase significantly to a point where the buy would cost considerably more than the next lowest cost buy or cause considerable financial harm to the organization, the organization should consider if there are sources of supply that would avoid the tax rate entirely. If not, then the organization has to figure out some sort of hedging strategy that would allow it to profit financially from the tax increase to cover the increased costs of supply. And that should be left to the financial pros — but it’s good to know when they should be trying to work their voodoo and when they shouldn’t.