EU ruling on Apple's Irish tax is 'total political crap': CEO

Thu Sep 1, 2016 12:13pm EDT
 
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By Conor Humphries and Alastair Macdonald

DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Apple's Chief Executive Tim Cook described an EU ruling that it must pay a huge tax bill to Ireland as "total political crap", but France joined Germany on Thursday in backing Brussels as transatlantic tensions grow.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager dismissed Cook's broadside, saying the demand for a 13 billion euro ($14.5 billion) back tax payment was based on the facts.

Washington has lined up with the tech giant, accusing the European Union of trying to grab tax revenue that should go to the U.S. government.

But in Ireland itself, the government and public opinion are divided over whether to take the windfall - which would fund the country's health system for a year - or reject it in the hope of maintaining a low tax regime that has attracted many multinationals, creating jobs.

A group of independent lawmakers, whose support is crucial to the minority coalition's survival, called for a review of how tax is collected from multinationals. Their reluctance to back a call for an appeal by the country's finance minister has cast doubt on whether Ireland will challenge Vestager's decision.

Apple has said it will appeal the ruling which Cook attacked in an interview with the Irish Independent. "No one did anything wrong here and we need to stand together. Ireland is being picked on and this is unacceptable," the newspaper quoted him saying. "It's total political crap."

Vestager has questioned how anyone might think an arrangement that allowed the iPhone maker to pay a tax rate of 0.005 percent, as Apple's main Irish unit did in 2014, was fair.

She said on Thursday that the calculations were based on data provided by Apple itself and evidence presented during hearings on Apple tax issues in the United States. "This is a decision based on the facts of the case," she told a news conference.   Continued...

 
Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook speaks on stage at the company's World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam