Tim Cook has labelled the EU ruling that Apple should pay €13bn (£11bn) in Irish taxes “total political crap”, in an outspoken attack on Brussels.
“I can’t see another explanation for it,” Apple’s chief executive said in an interview with the Irish Independent.
“This conclusion that the Commission has reached has no basis in law or in fact. So I think it clearly suggests that this is politics at play.
“It’s total political crap.”
Mr Cook was speaking after Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition commissioner, said Apple had enjoyed 25 years of “sweetheart deals” with the Irish state that allowed it to pay corporation tax as low as 0.005 per cent on its profits by shuffling all of its profits from Europe and elsewhere to an entity with no staff and no tax residency.
Ms Vestager ordered the Irish government to collect €13bn in taxes she said should have been paid between 2003 and 2014, declaring that Apple’s tax affairs in the country amounted to illegal state aid.
Apple and Ireland say they will appeal against the ruling, which appears set to spark a transatlantic tussle between Brussels and Washington. Apple says the ruling could have devastating consequences for the EU economy and that the order for retrospective taxes is unfair. It denies that there was a special deal.
“This is a huge overreach that represents retrospective activity and is completely unfair,” Mr Cook said. He suggested the EU had made the ruling with the eventual aim of harmonising taxes across its states.
“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.”
Apple disputes the 0.005 per cent tax figure as “extremely misleading and deceptive”, saying it pays 26.1 per cent globally.