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Does Apple pay tax? | Why doesn't Apple pay more tax: Complete guide to Apple's tax affairs

David Price | Sept. 2, 2016
Apple is in trouble with a really scary foe: the tax man

The third is to draw on anti-EU feeling in Ireland related to the country's ability to set its own laws:

"The Commission is effectively proposing to replace Irish tax laws with a view of what the Commission thinks the law should have been. This would strike a devastating blow to the sovereignty of EU member states over their own tax matters."

And to be fair, by all accounts Apple has broken no rules: the Commission's beef is with the rules themselves, which it believes Ireland was wrong to set, and the special treatment it feels was accorded to Apple. It would be strange to expect Apple to pay more money than it needs to or is asked to by the country where it is based. Remember that it has to justify everything it does to shareholders.

Isn't Apple supposed to be an ethical company?

Yes it is, but the company isn't always completely consistent with this stuff. The way I would put it is that Apple is a company with a social conscience - it has made genuine and substantive contributions to the debate on gun control, lesbian and gay rights and environmental damage in the US, for instance - but on an economic level it's as rapaciously capitalistic as any multinational corporation. It wouldn't be the biggest tech company in the world if it wasn't.

I suspect that on an ethical level, few people in the industry would dispute that Apple - and other tech companies - really ought to pay more tax. There's an element of pragmatism about most arguments in favour of low corporate taxation: a light tax burden makes entrepreneurs more likely to build businesses, create jobs and boost the economy in ways that will benefit the public purse in indirect ways; and a high tax burden makes them more likely to flee to different countries that aren't so strict.

In this context the Commission's ruling makes sense: by obliging its member states to stick to a standardised treatment of multinational companies it could remove the incentive to move elsewhere.

Do other tech companies pay more or less tax than Apple?

Almost uniformly less. Partly because Apple's tax setup is fairly standard practice in this industry, and partly because nobody makes as much money as Apple.

Offshore Shell Games 2015, a report by the group Citizens for Tax Justice, names 9 tech companies among the 30 firms holding the most money offshore, including Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft.

Why does the European Commission think Apple should pay more?

Mainly it's the inconsistency: the Commission believes that allowing one company to pay lower tax than the usual rate - and particularly on such a grand scale as this - amounts to state aid.


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