FLASHBRANDS DODGE THE TAXMAN

Pop-up companies the new breed of corporate entity for innovateurs

It all started with flashmobs and food trucks. Flashmobs, self-organizing groups of people who congregated around a temporary idea, vanished into plain sight after accomplishing their mission. Food trucks had no premises, no fixed location, and could change their menu and branding overnight.

Then came pop-up retail stores, bars and hotels; and entire software coding or micro-manufacturing operations around a specific event or project. Pop-up enterprises graduated from personalized T-shirts at a music festival to 3D-printed accessories at a smartphone launch.

With smart fabbers able to ‘print’ anything from playthings to pizza, from gadgets to garments, self-styled ‘makers’ can launch a new brand or product line in a flash. Flashbrands pick up on new trends and exploit them, usually offering the customer a highly personalized and topical experience. And they disappear as soon as demand has been satisfied, or the fad has evaporated.

Now there’s a new type of company that specializes in flashbrands – the pop-up corporation. Spawned from an offshore but online legal engine, registered corporations can be established in seconds, subscribed to in minutes, and have a life of anything from days to months. Most don’t survive the full gamut of a tax year.

Which is why regulators are scrambling to get a grip on these short-lived enterprises. No annual report invariably means no tax return. No premises, no staff, no lasting records; how can you audit that? But they are real businesses, adding billions to the economy.

Tech startups with unproven ideas are grabbing pop-ups. With experimental products, continuity is dubious at best; a virtual company and flashbrand can give you instant street cred. All you need is customers. No wonder the demand for BitCents is at an all-time high!

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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