Taxing Times

Well, look at that. Apple owes Ireland 13 billion euros!

The European Commission has ruled that the Irish government offered Apple billions in illegal tax breaks that must now be repaid. Who could argue against that? The US government, apparently.

The yanks have condemned this tax probe via a “blog” on the US treasury website. (I use inverted commas because to me the word “blog” implies some kind of freedom of expression, as opposed to a carefully crafted press statement which probably had to go through a dozen security clearances before it ever saw the light of day.)

The Americans are concerned that the EU is becoming a “supra-national tax authority” overriding the tax codes of its member states. Furthermore, they feel that American companies are being unfairly targeted. The treasury blog stresses that “tax avoidance by multinational corporations is a serious concern for the United States.” Apparently, President Obama has proposed a “robust tax reform plan” which he has “repeatedly urged Congress to enact into law”.

Of course it’s lovely that old Barack has gently badgered a hostile legislature into recovering billions of dollars in effectively stolen money. However, for all the faults of the EU, in this instance it’s actually managed to achieve something a hopelessly hamstrung American political system has failed to do.

The US government’s criticism of the EU tax probe shows whose side they are really on. It summons images of a Scooby Doo villain being carted off to jail by Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, waving his fist and yelling, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling Europeans!”

Let’s hope that the EU will continue to stand up for the little guy and make sure that large corporations pay their fair share of tax. And if it can solve the mystery of the haunted gold mine near my house, that would just be a nice bonus.

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