When I first saw the reports which indicated that the Apple Company had a €13 billion tax bill owing to the southern state, that it was appealing this charge, and that it was supported in its appeal by the Dublin government, I had to check it wasn’t the first of April. Of course Apple would use every legal trick to dodge this barrack-buster of a bill, but the Irish government was joining with Apple in its not-fair appeal?
Richard Boyd-Barrett of People Before Profit was on RTÉ yesterday, and he noted that the bill, plus interest, would nicely cover the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic in the south – done and dusted. Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin condemned the move as a case where “preferential tax treatment [is] afforded to a multinational over other companies.” Peadar Tóibín, the Aontú leader, said it was the South “being dragged kicking and screaming into accepting international tax norms…The unpaid tax is worth €3,000 to every man, woman and child in the countr”. (Yes of course he meant ‘state’, Virginia. )
Apple is reckoned to have paid as little as 0.7% in taxes. Hands up anyone who’d like to have their income taxed at that rate?
Of course the Irish government is supporting Apple, saying in effect “No, no, we don’t want all that money, keep it, keep it”. That’s because it’s afraid that if it isn’t nice to Apple, Apple will up stakes and go elsewhere.
To be fair to the Dublin government, they have to weigh up the possible job losses against the tax revenue. But know what I’m thinking? Wouldn’t €13 billion go a long way to repairing the Irish economy, let alone Ireland’s reputation in the world, and creating an awful lot of jobs?
What’s really needed, of course, is international commitment to an agreed tax rate for Apple and other such big multinationals, no matter where they go. Then the south could take the money they’re owed, could make it clear to other companies that fair taxation is the norm for everybody, individuals and companies however big, and then begin to build a new green economy that would play to Ireland’s strengths.
But rushing to Apple’s side and supporting it as it swivels around, looking for a tax rate that’s so low, you’d need a ladder to get down to it, isn’t just bad business. It’s a bad way of defending the sovereignty of the south.
Any state that lets big companies hold it to ransom knows that in the end, the baddies win. Not good thinking, Leo. Not smart, Micheál. We all love Apple, but that doesn’t mean we want it coming in and telling Irish people what to do. We’ve had enough interference from outsiders down the centuries.