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article imageReview: ‘The Price We Pay’ fails to uncomplicate costs of tax avoidance Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 12, 2015 in Entertainment
‘The Price We Pay’ is a dense documentary that explores and condemns corporate tax avoidance by demonstrating its impact on ordinary people via interviews with political and financial experts.
Globalization and the state of the economy continues to be a hot topic of analysis, accusations, recommendations and predictions. Recovery after the recent worldwide financial crisis has looked different in most countries as governments sought appropriate ways to bolster their markets and support their citizens; expectedly, some have been more successful than others. But most democratic nations are built around the concept of a welfare state in which taxes are used to support publicly funded programs and infrastructure that protect and promote the well-being of its citizens. The Price We Pay provides an in-depth exploration of how companies are avoiding their “fair” contribution to this system and the consequences of their actions, particularly on the middle class.
To begin with, to look at this issue from any angle is complex, which is in some ways the reason corporations have been able to operate as they have for so long. The documentary crew speaks to a variety of political and financial experts, some of whom were formerly employed by companies who stand accused of participating in tax evasion, and their interviews comprise the how, what and why of the film. The term “offshore bank account” is widely known, but one section of this picture actually drills down what that means in today’s world where financial wealth no longer has a fixed address. They also review a number of other tactics and how they affect the lives of ordinary citizens. The dialogue is intercut with a variety of images from nature, particularly storms, which metaphorically parallel the subject being discussed.
The matters discussed in this picture are fascinating as they explore the history of tax avoidance and put a spotlight on global enterprises that currently employ these methods, depriving governments of trillions of dollars in tax revenues by harboring profits in offshore havens. However when considering such complicated themes, the use of revolving talking heads can deliver an overwhelming amount of information with no chance to digest or reflect. It simply jumps from one professional to the next, each expelling a vat of knowledge that they know thoroughly but the audience may be hearing for the first time.
While there is an attempt to lay the speakers’ voices over captivating images to escape what is generally believed to be the documentary kiss-of-death — people just talking to the camera — it needs more. There needs to be an effort to explain the topics examined more plainly via comparisons to everyday life, charts, graphics, animations or other devices that help simplify the discussion. On the very rare occasion one of these is utilized, the element being relayed becomes immediately clearer.
Nonetheless the collection of presenters the filmmakers assemble is extensive, though mostly one-sided. While representation of the multinational corporations is restricted to their testimonies at congressional hearings, the movie includes people from business and academia to address the issue of tax avoidance including its harm and resolutions. Solutions such as global cooperation to eliminate tax havens, and ensure companies are taxed appropriately and the monies collected are distributed properly are proposed; and even though these sound effective, they will likely never materialize in the current state of affairs. Thus this picture is more of an eye-opener than a provider of answers.
Director: Harold Crooks
More about The Price We Pay, Documentary, Tax avoidance, Financial crisis, Harold Crooks
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