Apple CEO Tim Cook has termed the European Union’s 13 billion Euro (around Rs 97,000 crore) back tax ruling on Apple as “total political crap” and said that the anti-US sentiment could have played a role in it. Cook’s stinging comments came in an interview to an Irish newspaper.
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that Ireland must demand 13 billion Euro in taxes from the Cupertino, San Francisco-based company.
"We have concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to 13 billion euros to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid," read an EU statement.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Tim Cook suggested the European commission might be trying to use state aid rules to harmonise tax rates across the EU.
“There are other possibilities too, but I think it’s clear that there is a desire to harmonise tax rates across the EU. Doing it this way doesn’t seem like the right approach to me. There should be a public discussion about it.”
Cook said he would fight closely with Ireland to overturn the ruling, which he said had "no basis in law or in fact".
"No one did anything wrong here and we need to stand together. Ireland is being picked on and this is unacceptable," Cook was quoted as saying.
Rejecting the assertion by European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, who said that Apple paid just 0.005 per cent tax in Ireland in 2014 and that Apple’s sweetheart tax deal with Ireland constituted illegal state aid, Cook termed it as “total political crap”.
“It’s total political crap,” Cook said. “They just picked a number from I don’t know where. In the year that the commission says we paid that tax figure, we actually paid $400m. We believe that makes us the highest taxpayer in Ireland that year.”
Cook told the newspaper that bias against multinationals from the United States may have been a factor in the decision to impose the bill.
"I think that Apple was targeted here," he said. "And I think that (anti-US sentiment) is one reason why we could have been targeted."
"I think it's a desire to reallocate taxes that should be paid in the US to the EU," he added.
Menawhile, UK daily The Guardian reported that Ireland’s governing coalition government is split over whether it should immediately appeal against the commission’s ruling.
Further talks are planned before a decision is taken, it said. The Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, is one of the strong backers of an appeal, and has insisted that the country needs to preserve its status as a low-tax base for overseas companies.
Vestager said Apple had improperly routed taxable income to a head office that only existed on paper and could not have generated such profits. However, Cook insisted that Apple and Ireland had “played by the rules” and would win the case on appeal. He warned this could escalate into a trade row between the EU and the US.