Nick Shaxson ■ Quote of the day: Apple


bad appleFrom U.S. Senator Carl Levin, on Apple’s clash with the European Commission:

“Its technological brilliance is dimmed by the financial engineering of its tax lawyers and executives who have stained Apple’s reputation through tax dodging. Successful corporations don’t only make money; they meet their civic obligations by paying their taxes. The EU report has increased pressure on multinational corporations to do just that.”

That’s our quote of the day. We could, however, also have used this lengthier one, from Richard Waters in the Financial Times, which begins with the observation that Apple founder Steve Jobs used to fly a pirate flag over company headquarters, as a way of saying that Apple would not be constrained by anybody else’s rules:

“There are few situations where selfless moral probity and pragmatic corporate self-interest clash more jarringly than when it comes to paying tax. Taxpayers who do not have access to complex tax avoidance schemes rightly perceive that the use of such arrangements by others leaves them footing an unfair share of the tax bill. But companies can fall back on the argument that they have a duty to shareholders to pay no more than they have to, and that all they are doing is following the law.

In reality, powerful companies are often able to play an influential role in determining how much tax they pay. According to the European Commission, Apple laid out a method for calculating its tax liability in Ireland that it did little to justify on economic grounds. And as companies become increasingly influential, their stance on issues such as this becomes hard for even national governments to resist.


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