Apple pays five one-thousandths of a percent in taxes.
It is able to do this by means of its agreement with a tax-haven country (Ireland) that allows it to pretend that its business is there and pay microscopically low taxes there, instead of paying fair taxes in the countries where it makes its enormous profits.
A European Union commission, after several years of investigation into just ten years of Apple’s operation, has ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($14.4 billion, £11 billion) in back taxes to Ireland.
This seems an enormous amount, but to Apple, which has $230 billion cash, it is “no big deal”.
Apple and Ireland react with a show of virtuous anger, and vow to appeal: Apple, because it prefers not to pay; Ireland, because it wants to keep its reputation as a safe tax haven, so that international corporations will remain interested in opening small offices in it so as to defraud other countries.
The Guardian’s article gets around to quoting the mild, proportionate remarks of the commission and its supporters only after a lot of furious and threatening arguments from Apple and Ireland. See what you think of those. Seems to me they translate into: “We want to keep our tax haven dodge. Five thousandths of a percent instead of the fifteen percent that others have to pay is nothing special. It isn’t the illegal ‘aid by a government to a company.’ We don’t care that the citizens of England and Germany, and America, too, are being robbed of the fair taxes that could go toward their schools an hospitals.”
The argument about creating jobs is often used as a cover. Let us do this, it’s bad but it employs people. Abolish concentration camps and you put guards out of work.
I had wondered why the European Union, with its many beneficent initiatives, could not do something about tax havens like Ireland and Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands. The all-out resistance of the international corporations, which can bribe governments to be on their side, explains why. Perhaps this unprecedented and courageous ruling will be the beginning of a wider crackdown on this global form of unfairness.