Why You Should (Still) Care About Apple Owing Ireland $14.5 Billion
Now that the dust has settled, let’s talk.
I know that everyone is going to be talking about headphone jacks right now, but let’s not forget: Apple owes Ireland (and by proxy, the European Union) billions of dollars in back taxes thanks to their County Cork location. Yikes.
But the dust has settle and Apple just announced the iPhone 7, so we can just forget about this tax thing, right? Bad idea—this story is rocking things on multiple coasts, and it’s only going to get more interesting. The G20 summit is underway, and tax avoidance is on a lot of people’s minds going in.
Here are the need-to-know aspects of this story, even if you don’t own a single Apple device:
1. The EU has a lot to prove right now.
Earlier this year, Brexit happened. It was more than a little surreal for us to watch it happen from across the pond. But it was even more surreal for the European Union itself. After all the empty threats and downright snide talk from Spain and Greece… someone actually did it. They up and left!
Add the talks about Scottish independence, and it’s safe to say that the European Union probably feels a need to advertise their appeal right about now. They have to appear stable. They have to appear strong. What better way than to exact justice upon hapless Yanks using their side of the world as a tax haven?
2. Ireland may be more loyal to industry than the EU.
The amount of money that Apple is being fined now is so high because it was supposed to be collected over several years. Anyone who freelances for a living knows the burden of having to pay taxes on an escalating sale, estimating profits and paying more money to the government the more money you earn. It’s annoying. It can discourage people from taking a non-traditional job altogether.
Ireland wanted to make that part easier for companies. They like business. They were called a “champion of growth” by the EU itself. Remember, Ireland still remembers the days of the Celtic Tiger economic boom. Now that they’ve courted economic allies like Apple and Google, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe they can make Ireland great again… without the European Union’s help.
Before you start shouting, Ireland isn’t saying they’re going to leave the EU (yet). But the fact that the EU is flexing its muscles about an Irish economic decision is ruffling feathers. The Finance Minister of Ireland “profoundly” disagrees with the EU’s decision about the tax bill. But what if he can’t stop the enforcement of it? Maybe it’s not Ireland’s problem that other countries in the EU didn’t want to create tax packages that incentivized countries to come there. Why should they, in their view, be punished for doing so?
3. Apple is throwing a tantrum—which may work in America’s favor.
Maybe it’s not realistic to expect companies to just pay their taxes and not look for havens, offshore accounts and tax breaks. Fine. But if Apple has to pay these back taxes, there’s a chance that America may receive them purely out of spite.
The most entertaining part of this entire hubbub may just be the unveiling of Angry Tim Cook. He’s so great. Here we thought he was maybe a gentler, more philanthropic version of Steve Jobs. Nope. He comes out and says that this money belongs in America, and is subject to America’s tax rules. They’re an international company, so they’ll sell internationally. But their money belongs to Old Glory.
This looks insolent to the world because it is. Tim Cook’s openly refuting the authority of one of the most influential alliances in the world. Even more amazing, Ireland is backing Apple up. It’s a matter of honor now. Money doesn’t appear to be as valuable as the assertion to the rest of the world that Ireland looks out for its own people. Combine that with a big payout to America, and we may see a very interesting anti-EU bromance next St. Patrick’s Day.
Brit McGinnis is a copywriter and author of several books. Her work has appeared on XOJane, SparkNotes and anywhere fine stories are sold. She lives in Portland, Oregon.