The Nobel Prize-winning economist, Prof Joseph Stiglitz, has accused the Government of speaking “balderdash” in rejecting the European Commission’s ruling on the Apple tax deal.
The acclaimed academic, a former World Bank and US government adviser, also said he was mystified by Ireland’s plans to turn its back on the €13bn in outstanding taxes the commission says Apple owes.
Prof Stiglitz was responding to comments by Education Minister Richard Bruton, who complained that the commission had stepped beyond its remit.
Mr Bruton told RTÉ Radio: “What the EU is trying to now use state-aid rules to do, is to say that Ireland should become the international policeman for dealing with worldwide problems where companies are seen to play one tax code off against another.”
But Prof Stiglitz said the Government would be wrong to lodge an appeal against the decision. “I think what the minister was saying was utter balderdash. The fact is that you were encouraging tax-avoidance. You knew it,” he said. “Let’s not make any pretence about it. You got a few jobs at the cost of stealing revenues from countries around the world. That’s the kind of activity that has to be stopped.”
Prof Stiglitz said the commission’s stance was simple. “It’s very clear that if a company says they got revenue associated with Ireland, you have to pay a tax on it.
“Whether that income was correctly attributed to Ireland is another matter, but if Apple was saying this is Irish income, you have an obligation to impose taxes on income that they say originated in Ireland.”
He also dismissed the Government argument that Ireland’s sovereignty was under threat.
Irish law is superseded by EU law — that’s part of what is meant by you joining the EU,” he said.
Prof Stiglitz said the decision should be welcomed.
“What I find absolutely mystifying is why you don’t just pocket that €13bn and use it for the enormous hardship that people in Ireland have had to face.”
He said the argument that recovering the tax would damage Ireland’s relations with multinationals, and cost jobs, was “absolute nonsense”. “I think Ireland can provide a lot. It has a well-trained labour force, a disciplined labour force, and that is the basis on which countries should compete — good infrastructure, too.
“This idea that all these people will leave, and the jobs will disappear, is a vote of lack of confidence in Ireland. I’d rather have a vote of confidence in Ireland.”
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