Moderna’s immoderate love for tax havens

To say the least, Moderna is an international company. Its headquarters are in the United States, its boss is French and its accounts … in Switzerland. This is what reveals a leak of the contract between Moderna and the European Union and unveiled by the Dutch NGO Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO).

“Company profits on anti-Covid vaccines will end up in one of the world’s worst tax havens”, strangles the NGO. Moderna intends to receive its payments in the canton of Basel, Switzerland, one of those where taxation is the lowest (13% for foreign companies, recalls Politico). The rate will probably be much lower in reality, with each company usually negotiating favorable terms on a case-by-case basis.

For the NGO, there is no real economic justification – at least other than fiscal – for this location, because Moderna Switzerland GmbH was only created in June 2020 and does not seem to have been actively involved in the vaccine development.

As luck would have it, Moderna also registered 780 patents in Delaware (United States), well known for being a tax haven – the state achieves the feat of having more companies than inhabitants. Royalties and patents are exempt from tax in their entirety.

Super optimization

It is obviously not surprising that a company, even in the health sector, seeks to maximize its profits. What is more shocking in this case is that Moderna, unlike Pfizer, has benefited abundantly from government grants … funded by taxes it does not pay.

In December 2020, the company had thus collected $ 4.1 billion (3.5 billion euros) from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, including one billion under Operation Warp Speed ​​”.

Moderna can also boast of marketing the most expensive anti-Covid vaccine in the world, at 18 euros per dose in Europe (31 euros on average in the world), against 1.78 euros for AstraZeneca for example.

In 2021, biotech is expected to sell between 800 million and one billion doses, thus achieving more than 19.2 billion in sales. According to SOMO’s calculations, for every taxpayer dollar spent on a Moderna vaccine, the company will make a net profit of 44 cents. “As a result, almost half of Moderna’s revenue will be profit, an exceptionally high margin.”

However, the NGO recognizes “A high degree of uncertainty” on its calculations, in the absence of official publication of the annual accounts of Switzerland GmbH. She is also offended by the laboratory’s lack of generosity. “With only 34 million doses promised for 2021 [au programme Covax], Moderna continues to produce vaccines mainly for rich countries ”, denounces SOMO.

Moderna obviously declined to comment. But the canton of Basel defends itself by arguing that the choice of location has nothing to do with tax issues. According to him, it is linked to the proximity with Lonza, a Swiss company specializing in active ingredients with which Moderna collaborates on the manufacture of vaccines, and which also has its headquarters in Basel (European vaccine production is located in Visp, in the canton of Valais in Switzerland).

Local authorities are especially pleased with the jobs provided by biotech, explains the Tages-Anzeiger. Who adds ironically that she has just opened an application in her Swiss subsidiary for an “international tax director”. It is up to him to find a new paradise?

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