To even the least informed onlooker, or to a passing tourist, it’s quite a conundrum of hypocrisy that in present-day Ireland we witness a grueling crisis of homelessness and poverty.
We see an inhumane system for processing international refugees and a minimum wage far below what our workers deserve, amongst other issues.
Yet our government has spent millions in legal fees defending the right of one of the world’s largest corporations to not pay back to the state the billions of euros in tax breaks it was illegally given.
It is, to be honest, a little pathetic, a little embarrassing, and it sets the stage for a near future where corporations are greater global powers than nations, making their own rules and looking on bemused as the system is, with little resistance, rigged in their favour.
Tax is one of the basic pillars of democracy; we all pay tax. Reactionaries on the right like to label people availing of social welfare as ‘spongers’ who don’t pay tax. It’s not true. We all pay tax.
I pay tax every time I buy a bag of crisps, you pay significantly more tax when you upgrade to the latest iPhone (which brings us to those fiends at Apple).
According to the European Commission, the Apple corporation (through their supposedly Irish-based Apple Sales International) have been paying a rate of tax in Ireland that fell from approximately 1% in 2003 to 0.005% in 2014.
Given that our 12.5% corporate tax rate is famously low and is a major attraction for multinationals to set up shop here, the notion that a company as swimmingly profitable as Apple would – through various loopholes -contribute so little to the state in return is quite a joke.
One can argue that, obviously, Apple brings employment to Ireland. And yes, that’s important. But when it’s not implausible that the collective income tax of their workers is relatively equitable to their payments as a corporation (a corporation that operates on an unprecedented global scale), we have to admit something is wrong.
A strong left-wing government would have no issue putting their foot down and ensuring that Apple and all of their ilk start to pay their fair share, without necessarily scaring them off our island.
Yet Fine Gael and their doormat facilitators in Fianna Fail would never want to upset lovely, generous Mr. Apple.
They’re far too worried about Ireland’s reputation as a haven for those who want to be wealthy without consequences when they should be more concerned about our reputation as a haven for those seeking a haven from persecution who are being thrown into our cruel direct provision system.
It’s not even as if Ireland’s only appeal to Apple is in our cowardice on seeking tax money. We have a bright, educated and productive workforce and possibly the most ideal location imaginable for global ease of movement, right at the centre of the world with several excellent airports linking to the EU, the US and the UK.
We’re not going to scare them away just by asking for our money, please. Modern Ireland was built on strong principles, compassion and ideological independence: we fought too hard to escape British rule to so easily allow ourselves to fall under Silicon Valley rule.
Lucien Waugh Daly
Image: Kartikey Das