Apple and Ireland blast European Commission’s ‘fairy story’ behind $14 billion EU tax grab

Foo Yun Chee for Reuters:

Apple accused the European Commission of misunderstanding its business on day two of the iPhone maker’s appeal against a $14 billion tax order, in a dispute that is key to the EU’s drive to collect more taxes but which could also run for years.

The Commission ordered the U.S. company in 2016 to pay 13 billion euros ($14.4 billion) of taxes it said were owed to Ireland. But Apple and Ireland, whose economy benefits from hosting a number of multinational firms, are appealing against the decision at Europe’s General Court, its second highest.

Central to the dispute is the importance of the Irish businesses, with Apple lawyer Daniel Beard arguing on Wednesday they were not as significant as the Commission has asserted… “The Commission went out of its way to tell a fairy story about supposed benefits to employment. It has no evidence, it is wrong. There was no sense of any special deal. Ireland properly and correctly taxed the Irish branches. There was no derogation from the normal rules,” he said in his closing argument.

Ireland’s lawyer, Paul Gallagher, said the EU executive had failed to prove its case and tarnished the country’s reputation. “They haven’t shown one company which has been treated less favourably than Apple. This is Ireland’s reputation which has been so severely criticised,” he said.

MacDailyNews Note: In November 2017, Apple released the following facts about Apple’s tax payments:

Apple believes every company has a responsibility to pay its taxes, and as the largest taxpayer in the world, Apple pays every dollar it owes in every country around the world. We’re proud of the economic contributions we make to the countries and communities where we do business.

We’re presenting the facts on this page in response to reporting by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Among the inaccuracies in these reports:

• The changes Apple made to its corporate structure in 2015 were specially designed to preserve its tax payments to the United States, not to reduce its taxes anywhere else. No operations or investments were moved from Ireland.

• Far from being “untouched by the United States,” Apple pays billions of dollars in taxes to the US at the statutory 35 percent rate on investment income from its overseas cash.

• Apple’s effective tax rate on foreign earnings is 21 percent — a figure easily calculated from public filings. This rate has been consistent for many years.
Last month, in response to questions from the ICIJ, the New York Times and others, Apple provided the following statement:

The debate over Apple’s taxes is not about how much we owe but where we owe it. As the largest taxpayer in the world we’ve paid over $35 billion in corporate income taxes over the past three years, plus billions of dollars more in property tax, payroll tax, sales tax and VAT. We believe every company has a responsibility to pay the taxes they owe and we’re proud of the economic contributions we make to the countries and communities where we do business.

Under the current international tax system, profits are taxed based on where the value is created. The taxes Apple pays to countries around the world are based on that principle. The vast majority of the value in our products is indisputably created in the United States — where we do our design, development, engineering work and much more — so the majority of our taxes are owed to the US.

When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, we complied by changing the residency of our Irish subsidiaries and we informed Ireland, the European Commission and the United States. The changes we made did not reduce our tax payments in any country. In fact, our payments to Ireland increased significantly and over the last three years we’ve paid $1.5 billion in tax there — 7 percent of all corporate income taxes paid in that country. Our changes also ensured that our tax obligation to the United States was not reduced.

We understand that some would like to change the tax system so multinationals’ taxes are spread differently across the countries where they operate, and we know that reasonable people can have different views about how this should work in the future. At Apple we follow the laws, and if the system changes we will comply. We strongly support efforts from the global community toward comprehensive international tax reform and a far simpler system, and we will continue to advocate for that.”

More Information About Apple’s Tax Payments

Throughout its history, Apple has designed new products — and established entirely new industries — by focusing on innovation. That hard work and dedication has led to the creation of revolutionary products and services that have profoundly improved people’s lives and created millions of jobs around the world.

Taxes for multinational companies are complex, yet a fundamental principle is recognized around the world: A company’s profits are taxed based on where value is created. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ireland, the United States and others all agree on this principle.

1. Apple is the largest taxpayer in the world, paying over $35 billion in corporate income taxes in the last three years. Apple pays taxes in every country where we sell our products.

When a customer buys an Apple product outside the United States, the profit is first taxed in the country where the sale takes place. Then Apple pays taxes to Ireland, where Apple sales and distribution activity is executed by some of the 6,000 employees working there. Additional tax is then also due in the US when the earnings are repatriated.
Apple’s worldwide effective tax rate is 24.6 percent, higher than average for US multinationals.

2. The vast majority of the value in Apple products is created in the United States, where design, development, engineering work and more are accomplished. So under the current international tax system, the majority of Apple taxes are owed to the US.

In a white paper last year, the US Treasury expressed concern over European regulators’ attempts to tax money that is owed to the US. “To the extent that such foreign taxes are imposed on income that should not have been attributable to the relevant Member State, that outcome is deeply troubling, as it would effectively constitute a transfer of revenue to the EU from the US government and its taxpayers.”

3. Apple has cash overseas because that’s where it sells the majority of its products. Under the current tax system, post-tax earnings from foreign sales are subject to US tax. Apple has earmarked more than $36 billion to cover US deferred taxes. This is in addition to the $35 billion the company paid in corporate income taxes over the past three years.

4. Apple has been operating in Ireland since 1980 when Steve Jobs looked for a base to expand outside the US. The facility in Cork, Ireland started with 60 employees and now has over 6,000. Apple’s innovation and investment supports a further 12,000 jobs across Ireland. And across Europe, Apple supports more than 1.5 million jobs.

When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, Apple made changes to its corporate structure to comply. Since then, all of Apple’s Irish operations have been conducted through Irish resident companies. Apple pays tax at Ireland’s statutory 12.5 percent.

As part of these changes, Apple’s subsidiary which holds overseas cash became resident in the UK Crown dependency of Jersey, specifically to ensure that tax obligations and payments to the US were not reduced. Since then Apple has paid billions of dollars in US tax on the investment income of this subsidiary. There was no tax benefit for Apple from this change and, importantly, this did not reduce Apple’s tax payments or tax liability in any country.

5. Apple believes comprehensive international tax reform is essential, and for many years has been advocating for simplification of the tax code. Reform that allows a free flow of capital will accelerate economic growth and support job creation. A coordinated legislative effort internationally will remove the current tug of war between countries over tax payments and ensure certainty of law for taxpayers.

Read Fortune’s independent explanation of Apple’s tax payments and how they illustrate the complexity of the international tax system.

Source: Apple Inc., November 6, 2017

9 Comments

  1. The reality is that individual governments are too lazy or too scared to deal with multi national corporate taxes.
    Personally I believe that companies should pay tax on revenue from goods or services sold in that country at the rate the government of that country decides on.
    However it is up to those countries to create that legislation. They should not complain about it if they are not willing to legislate on it.
    If the eu is complaining about it then create legislation that applies across the eu. Clearly existing legislation is incomplete or has massive loopholes created for multinationals.

    1. The solution to an international problem must be international. Such a solution is never going to happen as long as the big kid on the block insists on pursuing its short-term national interests without considering the long term consequences. Referring to any effort to rationalize the system as a “tax grab,” even if there is plainly nobody grabbing anything, just paints America as a hotbed of nativist Hee-Haw impersonators. That is hardly going to help gain cooperation.

      1. “Referring to any effort to rationalize the system as a “tax grab,” even if there is plainly nobody grabbing anything, just paints America as a hotbed of nativist Hee-Haw impersonators.”

        I’m not appreciative of stereotyping those pointing out this naked “tax grab” as stereotypical hayseed hicks not exclusive to the U.S.

        That said let’s review: the E.U. bullies came up a $14 billion tax out of thin air over the objection of sovereign Ireland jamming it down their throat. Invent a pejorative label and falsely accuse Apple of being negligent for not paying taxes, when they already paid every penny, what a socialist crock of 🐂💩.

        May the court see this inventive”tax grab” for what it is and rule in favor Apple and not sovereign Ireland over the big country E.U. bullies…

        1. Hey GoeB. Been a while, I hope you’re well.

          As I understand it, Ireland gave preferential treatment to Apple by giving them a tax rate they did not offer other companies. Under EU rules, Ireland can tax whatever they want, including zero, but must do so uniformly for all companies. The 14B is to correct that.

          1. Good to hear from you my friend. Agree with everything you wrote. Yeah, have a hard time with the uniform tax rate. When I think of the many benefits a larger company brings to the country with the larger workforce spending money versus a mom and pop. I’ll get over it… 😎

            1. And that’s the reason for the law. The EU does not allow member states competing for a singular company. Also, it’s equitable, the law applies to all (at least on paper).

  2. Apple is the largest taxpayer in the world
    And still not paying nearly enough. That’s why Ireland.
    The vast majority of the value in Apple products is created in the United States, where design, development, engineering work and more are accomplished.

    So it should be taxed in the US, or wherever it is sold.

    Apple has cash overseas because that’s where it sells the majority of its products.

    See #2.

    Apple has been operating in Ireland since 1980 when Steve Jobs looked for a base to expand outside the US. The facility in Cork, Ireland started with 60 employees and now has over 6,000. Apple’s innovation and investment supports a further 12,000 jobs across Ireland. And across Europe, Apple supports more than 1.5 million jobs.

    So… these people make Apple money.

    When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, Apple made changes to its corporate structure to comply. Since then, all of Apple’s Irish operations have been conducted through Irish resident companies. Apple pays tax at Ireland’s statutory 12.5 percent.

    Which is what they should have been charged all along. Ireland broke the rules, Apple was a willing beneficiary.

    Apple believes comprehensive international tax reform is essential, and for many years has been advocating for simplification of the tax code.

    Sovereign nations make their own rules

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