Europe has smacked technology giant Apple with a whopping €13 billion tax bill, but rather than leaping at the money to address domestic issues like the highest level of homelessness since the Famine Ireland is trying to get Apple back to tax free trading.
Years of Irish wheeler-dealing directed towards attracting business from multinational corporations has produced an at least morally bankrupt near zero rate of corporate tax. While on the books Ireland has two rates for corporation tax – 12.5% for trading income and 25% for investment income, special deals negotiated by the government with the bigger fish in the Irish pond has resulted in companies like Apple paying no more than 0.005% on declared wealth generated in Ireland. In the last few days the European commission has called last orders on this shady dealing and has called in almost €13 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple.
Ireland – of all European member states – could do with this money. In over a decade of failed state “leprechaun” economics Ireland has found itself in a deep dark hole. Social welfare and spending cuts have ensured that more Irish people emigrate or die as a direct result of these decisions. Lower levels of real employment, zero hour contracts, a housing crisis, and levels of homelessness as high as the years of the Great Famine have brought Ireland to its knees, and yet the suits in government are “outraged” that Europe would dare to help them with their money problems. What they have done instead is take the side of the corporate giant and keep up the policy of screwing Irish people.
In reality nothing is that simple. The European Commission hasn’t taken up this case out of the goodness of its heart. It knows as well as anyone else that Apple and other globalised corporations won’t pay a single penny of this money. These multinationals have long since transcended the petty demands of nation states, and if pressed on the matter of legality will up-sticks and flit to where legality suits them or can be negotiated to suit them. Moreover, Europe – or the real powers behind the European project, France and Germany – wants to punish Ireland for taking this massive business away from them. Now that the United Kingdom is finalising its EU exit it is likely that UK based corporations, wishing to maintain an EU base, will be considering a move to Dublin – and the European Union definitely doesn’t want that to happen.
What should we do about this? Well there isn’t actually a great deal that we can do. The simple truth is that neither we nor the EU can force Apple to pay a single penny to Ireland’s revenue. The nature of this corporation and the deals our elected officials have made with it ensure that we are completely powerless. In the short-term at least, Apple employs a tiny number of people in Ireland, and this is the only money we are likely to see. Apple is behaving within the law, and that is because Apple and Ireland have written the law to suit themselves.