Apple CEO Tim Cook: Global corporate tax system must be overhauled

In Ireland on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook backed changes to the global corporate tax system, agreeing with the general consensus that global tax rules need to be overhauled. Currently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is pursuing global reforms over where multinational firms such as Apple should be taxed.

Padraic Halpin for Reuters:

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the global corporate tax system must be overhauled
Apple CEO Tim Cook

“I think logically everybody knows it needs to be rehauled, I would certainly be the last person to say that the current system or the past system was the perfect system. I’m hopeful and optimistic that they (the OECD) will find something,” Cook said. “It’s very complex to know how to tax a multinational… We desperately want it to be fair,” the Apple CEO added after receiving an inaugural award from the Irish state agency responsible for attracting foreign companies recognizing the contribution of multinationals in the country.

Apple is one of Ireland’s largest multinational employers with 6,000 workers and both it and the Irish government have gone to court to fight a European Union order that Apple must pay 13 billion euros ($14.41 billion) in back taxes to Dublin. The appeal to the EU’s second-highest court began in September and could run for years. Cook said Apple’s belief that “law should not retrofitted” was at the heart of the case and that the company had great faith in the justice system.

MacDailyNews Take: Certainly, the global corporate tax system needs much work and, hopefully, somehow, the EU mandated tax grab will fail in EU courts. (Fat chance.)

As for Apple’s strong stance on privacy, Cook said this:

I think more regulation is needed in this area, it is probably strange for a business person to be talking about regulation but it has become apparent that companies will not self-police in this area. We were one of the first to endorse GDPR, we think it is overall extremely good, not only for Europe. We think it’s necessary but not sufficient. You have to go further and that further is required to get privacy back to where it should be. — Apple CEO Tim Cook

25 Comments

    1. cook operates a wealthy multi-national corporation. he’s not making a dictate on what a sovereign nation should do, he’s offering a suggestion based on how he sees things. that’s all. why does that bother you? since the current system is obviously not working (nor fair), i would think that all ideas should be considered at this point.

      1. Exactly. The leader of a company that employs, manufactures, sells, and buys internationally, and whose shares are owned both by foreign and domestic investors, would be derelict of duty were he not to suggest improvements to global taxation.

        What kind of weird gag order would have to be in place for Cook to be prevented from expressing this? Sometimes I think our friend applecynic is just a little unhinged.

        1. Re: Derelict of duty…
          Not all nations have Citizens United. In fact, I think only the US does. Investors take their risks, that’s the game.

          Investors also are only a (small) fraction of a given society. Sovereign nations have more to think about than “maximizing shareholder value”.

    2. applecynic, your posts are becoming increasingly irrational. Now you contend that people should not comment on international topics?

      Surely you are not subtly attempting to conflate this with our POTUS coercing the assistance of a foreign government to manipulate the U.S. election process…

  1. It’s a Holiday.

    Take a break f your nutcase, “I can’t-help-myself from throwing in a jab at the person I despise, even though the article was on Cook/tax and criticism of a poster on this site”.

    1. Up shut, Wholley, I can take it. I’ve seen enough loons and hypocrites take pot shots at me that I’ve grown a cynically thick skin. So thanks but I can defend myself.

            1. It’s someone pretending to be me. I may be an a-hole but I’m not a rude a-hole. Fake the faking fakers, I say. Too much fake spews from fake commenters pretending to be applecynic. It’s disgraceful. The commenter stuttering was me, fake applecynic, pretending to be the real applecynic. Faking faker!

            2. Hey kenc, there is an audience of two – applecynic himself and me, fakecynic exposing applecynic’s cynical cynicism. It’s a chino-schism across the chasm of nerdgasm.

  2. Cook isn’t a thought leader, and he showed it again. Cook isn’t proposing anything. He merely responded to questions. The OECD trotted out some modest proposals last autumn and Cook merely hinted some soft support for them. Note that Cook isn’t a leader in action either. He may signal support and then choose to sit on his hands.

    A basic outline of the proposed reforms, which won’t be finalized until the end of 2020:
    https://www.irishtimes.com/business/oecd-proposes-global-minimum-corporate-tax-rate-1.4076933

    The reality is that Apple and other tech giants have leveraged their “intangible assets” to the hilt as one part of their tax avoidance schemes. So unlike a physical product that can be easily audited as it is produced, bought, and sold over national boundaries, software makers all love to play games. They get away with changing the price of software when it crosses borders, both up and down. They create shell companies in tax havens that magically operate automated licensing operations to extract the supposed value of software in places like the Jersey Islands or the Caymans despite the fact that neither the product nor Apple employees nor any significant customer base actually have any presence there.

    How about ending that practice, Cook? Tech giants play all kinds of shell company games that no small businesses or domestic entities could ever pull off. That’s precisely why a few thousand rich families get richer and billions of others get relatively much poorer. Corporate greed, now a main feature of Apple’s culture. So sad. And just because Apple often pays relatively greater percentage of taxes due to hardware sales than pure software firms/ad agencies like Facebook do, that doesn’t make them the good guys here. Apple for over a decade has been skimming off the cream while individuals and small companies have shouldered almost all the costs of maintaining society’s infrastructure.

    Want proof? Here you go. Since WW2, corporations have taken over Congress. In so doing, they pushed the burden of taxes not just off of corporate leaders, but also off of consumption. They pushed more and more taxation onto landholders, workers, and small businesses.

    In the USA, the 2017 tax boondoggle doubled down on the trickle down at a time when corporate entities didn’t even know what to do with all the free cash they have been hoarding in overseas tax havens. So go figure, corporations have accelerated the repurchase programs of their stock.

    This of course helps bubble up stock valuations and consolidates holdings into the hands of fewer elites, especially corporate officers who are granted stock awards whether the company makes money or not. Make no mistake, the pro-worker rhetoric the Orange Liar used during the campaign was exactly the opposite of what working class voters got. Look at payroll taxes, which are strongly biased against lower classes as shown below.

    More proof of shifted tax burden from elite capitalists to formerly middle-class workers:

    So if Orange Liar wanted to boost domestic production, why didn’t he reduce the payroll tax rate? Nooooooo, instead the 2017 tax bill instead slashed corporate income taxes. So instead of incentivizing domestic production, the richest few got to skim off more cream and award themselves yet more stock bonuses. No wonder Wall Street keeps pushing the stock bubble — because the last 2 years have seen more corporate executive stock bonuses for zero actual performance than I have ever seen. More proof:

    Notice how CEOs get paid dramatically more than the increase in value they create?

    Damn right that corporate taxation needs a dramatic overhaul. Corporations are supposed to work for people, not be a legalized money laundering machine for executives to line their pockets from the underpaid labor of the lowest classes of people around the planet. Timmy is just telling people what they want to hear. He isn’t doing a damn thing to demonstrate a superior corporate answer that uplifts all boats.

  3. “it and the Irish government have gone to court to fight a European Union order that Apple must pay 13 billion euros ($14.41 billion) in back taxes to Dublin”

    Actually, those taxes have now been paid to the US Treasury, so the EU order is that the US Treasury must pay the back taxes to Dublin.

    1. KenC,

      Where did you hear that? Last I heard, the money is sitting in an escrow account waiting for a final judgement in the EU litigation.

      Apple may (or may not) have paid some US taxes on that income, due to the Trump Tax Act, but it will be up to Apple to apply for any refunds due if it ends up going to creditable Irish taxes instead of to Apple.

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