Tim Cook announces 1000 jobs for Cork but avoids questions on Apple's tax bill

On the day that was in it, it felt almost rude to ask. Getting someone yesterday to quiz Tim Cook about the T word and ask the Apple supremo about its corporate tax bill was as hard yesterday morning as finding someone who was not in love with their Apple iPhone or iPad.

Tim Cook announces 1000 jobs for Cork but avoids questions on Apple's tax bill

After all, the top Apple man was in town — at Trinity College Dublin no less — accepting a students’ award on the first leg of a trip before he headed south to Cork to formally announce that Apple had big plans to boost its Irish workforce to 6,000.

Students had queued for hours for the opportunity to meet and greet and ask questions of the tech superstar, who was receiving an achievement award from a students’ society.

Apple has delivered an awful lot of jobs to Cork. But it has also embroiled Ireland in a tax investigation mounted by Brussels on whether it cut a too-favourable tax deal with the authorities here about 15 years ago. That decision by the European Commission is looming, but may not now be delivered until after Christmas, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said yesterday.

In front of a US Senate committee investigating such tax matters in 2013, Mr Cook generated a barrage of hostile headlines about Ireland and tax havens in the world’s financial press. Apple appeared then to suggest that it paid little tax on the billions of dollars earned on revenues from all those iPhones and tablets it sold outside North America. Revenues which were funnelled through Ireland were moved out again, only slightly diminished by the levying of a rock-bottom corporate tax rate.

Apple is now a $651bn (about €606bn) corporate behemoth, the world’s largest. Mr Cook’s very utterances can add hundreds of millions to its value. A product glitch can strip hundreds of millions off investors’ wealth in an instant.

And thousands of jobs in Ireland are directly tied to its fortunes.

But business journalists seeking out students yesterday to ask Mr Cook on their behalf what he thought the outcome for Ireland would be from the EU probe was a hopeless task.

And over an hour, it became clear from his charming and funny responses just why Mr Cook is leader of the $651bn giant.

He told the students that Apple had been in Ireland back before that unimaginable time when there was no Apple iPhone. Apple had been in Ireland during the good and not-so-good times.

Back then there was talk that Apple was heading towards bankruptcy. And he recalled that he had come to Cork initially in his very first month as an Apple employee almost 18 years ago when the plant had 1,800 employees.

He charmed the audience yesterday, saying that Apple is now rooted in Ireland, not based in Ireland, and is here to stay.

The Cork plant is one of the most diverse in the world, he said, where the French or other foreign accent is as likely to be heard as a voice from Cork or Kerry.

He talked about how, as chief executive he realised that talking about his sexuality he could help tackle discrimination against LGBT people. Asked by a student working in PC World what he should tell customers who complained that Apple tablets were far too expensive, he drew laughter by suggesting he just tell them that Apple was the best.

Alas, charmed, the audience didn’t ever get round to quizzing him on that T word.

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