EU leaders want proposals on taxing online giants early next year

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders said on Thursday they looked forward to seeing proposals on taxing online giants by early 2018 but in a nod to concerns from countries like Ireland said EU efforts had to be in line with work under way at a global level.

European countries are split over whether online companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon should pay more tax, with smaller EU members such as Ireland and Luxembourg – which host many online businesses – worried that taxes would hurt their competitiveness without a global solution.

Countries like Italy and France on the other hand are frustrated by the low tax rates online giants pay by re-routing profits through low-rate countries and insist the EU should go it alone if the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes the United States and Japan, is unable to reach an agreement on a global solution.

Meeting for an EU summit, the leaders said in their conclusions that they looked forward to “appropriate (European) Commission proposals by early 2018.”

However they referred to the need to ensure a “global level-playing field in line with the work currently under way at the OECD”, a change from earlier draft summit conclusions which did not mention “global” or link the OECD work to EU efforts.

An EU diplomat said French President Emmanuel Macron – who has led the charge for more taxation of digital giants – was told to wait for OECD proposals in April 2018.

Last month the European Commission outlined three options for taxing internet companies: taxing the turnover rather than the profits of digital firms, putting a levy on online ads and imposing a withholding tax on payments to internet firms.

In the longer term the EU wants to change existing taxation rights to make sure digital firms with large operations but no physical presence in a given country pay taxes there instead of being allowed to re-route their profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

The EU wants member states to reach a compromise by December, will then base its proposals on what they agree to, and will also send those proposals to the OECD.

However, the EU faces the prospect of countries opposed to the measures blocking the move as states have a veto on tax matters.

The Commission has raised the possibility of stripping members of their veto rights on tax issues, a move Ireland has said it will resist.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

Tech

Amazon Aims to Be the Next Big Fashion Brand with Body Labs Acquisition

This month, not long after acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon quietly bolted on Body Labs, a New York artificial intelligence startup that creates 3D models of real people from photos, with better than 2-centimeter accuracy. Natasha Lomos and Jordan Crook, writing for TechCrunch which broke the acquisition story, commented, “Amazon has been ramping up its own fashion business in recent years, expanding and growing its private label fashion brands.”

So what are three possible outcomes from another Amazon acquisition, this one AI? Let’s take them one by one.

1. Amazon uses social selling to sell more clothes, sportswear, shoes and jewelry

Amazon has already invested a lot into its product recommendation engine. If you’re like me, you scan Amazon’s “Recommended for you” a lot–it’s good. Body Labs should jump that forward in product categories like clothing, jewelry, and sportswear.

Flo McDavid, director of business development at Body Labs, put it this way just before the acquisition,  “While there are tons and tons of Google images of very diverse people, it’s hard to find someone who’s like you. At Body Labs we’ve developed artificially intelligence software that understands human body shape from everyday photos.  . . . No body scanners, no changing clothes or anything like that–just a  simple photo. So we thought, what if we could connect people with similar body shapes so they could be inspired by people like them?”

The Body Labs demo shows people using a selfie to connect them to “shape doppelgangers” on Instagram in clothes that look good. Hear Flo talk more about it in the video below:

2. Amazon Fashion rolls out the red carpet for customers.

Amazon currently has a product–Echo Look–that takes real-time images of customers. It is marketed as a “Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant with Alexa–includes Style Check to get a second opinion on your outfit.” It is not a tough guess that Amazon’s second opinion is you can buy three or four more things–just ask Alexa. But seriously, by bolting on Body Labs engine in the background, Amazon could power recommendations around fashion and accessories that work in the real world.

Body Labs VP of Developer Relations Ali Javid said recently in a company YouTube video, “Imagine if an apparel brand or retailer knew the shape of every single one of their customers—imagine how the shopping experience could change. Imagine how the supply chain would be innovated upon. This is possible today with BodyLabs human-aware AI.”

3.    Amazon grows profitable game developer infrastructure.

In July, Amazon reported just over 4 billion in income from its Amazon Web Services division. Amazon runs its own games studios, distributes Lumberyard, and has GameLift and GameSparks back-end services for multi-player games. Body Labs would be a natural extension for gamers to have to develop photo-realistic, moving body avatars. Adding on this kind of service would continue to expand their digital revenue, so it makes sense, although the company has not commented on this direction.

So, what’s next for Amazon?

Integrating Body Labs into the launch of Amazon Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy clothing discount service now in beta, is an obvious next step–whether or not that integration is obvious to the customer. Echo Look integration also looks to be a no-brainer. Peering a bit further down the line, with big technology companies hungry to acquire production and distribution, it wouldn’t be surprising to have Amazon acquire fashion production as well as fashion brand assets in the near future to round out its in-house fashion lines Lark + Ro, Franklin & Freeman, Pinzon, Scout + Ro, and more.

Tech

Nerd chic is what’s next in fashion

Gucci-runway

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Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele sent a troop of nerdy models down his spring 2016 runway on Wednesday, during Milan Fashion Week

Button-up blouses and delightfully tacky neck ties stole the show. In minimal makeup, the model’s faces were instead accessorized with oversized wire glasses and sparkly plastic frames.

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Image: Fashion GPS

The look was a mashup of snazzy, power-women from the ’70s and the cast of Freaks and Geeks

When she wasn’t kicking ass and saving the world, actress Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman character killed it in the style game as alias Diana Prince. Read more…

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