Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unclaimed Property as a Tax Dodge?

I got a letter from PriceWaterhouseCoopers this week. They are doing an audit for Google and found that Google owes me some money. It's earned revenue from my old AdSense account. I assume it's from YouTube and the few ads I had on my blog for a while. In 2010 I decided ads on my blog were dumb because I was never going to reach the payment threshold. So I deleted them. Not really sure what happened to YouTube ads on my rocket videos. I sort of forgot about it for 5 years.

Anyway, the letter says the money is going to be handed over to the State of Georgia as unclaimed funds because I haven't logged into that AdSense account since 2010. If I want to actually claim the money I have to sign the letter and return it to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, then open a new AdSense account and the money will be transferred to it. But AdSense still won't remit any funds below a $100 threshold. Ever. A quote from the AdSense agreement:
10. Termination
.... If you terminate the Agreement and your earned balance equals or exceeds the applicable threshold, we will pay you your earned balance....  Any earned balance below the applicable threshold will remain unpaid.
Remain unpaid? Indefinitely? I don't think you can do that. The accountants must be appeased! What happens to amounts under $100? Some consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers is probably really bent that Google won't change this language in the AdSense agreement. I bet they can't think of any legitimate journal entry to transfer that amount from liabilities to equity. 

I took one financial accounting class at Georgia Tech in about 1987, so this is definitely not my field. I am fully prepared to be totally wrong about this. But I did learn double entry bookkeeping and the basic element of ethics it implies. If a company has a number in the credit column they have to have the same number in the debit column. Right now Google has $75 in the account for owing people money that is offsetting $75 in an actual bank account, collected from an advertiser because somebody watched an ad on a video I made. This makes it so Google doesn't have to show that $75 of actual money as an asset. It's a liability, owed to me. But they never intend to give me that $75. That's obviously unethical to me. 

And now you know why I was unable to make it as a businesswoman and closed my S-Corporation in 2005.

If I do nothing I guess PriceWaterhouseCoopers makes Google hand $75 over to Georgia. Google has to subtract it out of their column of actual money. Then it becomes Georgia's actual money to earn interest on indefinitely while it sits in another column on Georgia's books as money still owed to me. That sounds more fair. Maybe the right course of action is to not return the letter to force that to happen.

In the best case scenario this weird threshold loophole is a waste of administrative resources for accountants, mail clerks, and me. This has to happen ALL the time. In the worst case scenario, it's ... I don't know. I draw the line at calling something fraud this far from my area of expertise. I am merely skeptical and curious for an explanation. Any knowledgable comments appreciated.

Note: this is a free blog provided by Google. I am not missing the symbolism of criticizing their accounting on a service they are giving away. I pay a yearly fee for my URL registrations but I don't pay Google anything for hosting content. Directly anyway. I do apparently provide them a tiny single line tax dodge. You're welcome.