Corporations are people. That's what we get told. But unlike actual people they somehow manage to get away with paying what seems like a very small amount of tax. Actual people don't like this, even though the companies themselves furiously defend what appear to be obvious tax-avoidance schemes. Apple is no different, though it seems to have an ally in the form of Ireland's finance minister.
In case you missed this story the first time round, let me get you up to speed. A year ago the European Commission got sick and tired of Apple routing its sales through Ireland in order to minimise the amount of tax they pay. It claims that rulings made by the Irish government in 1991 and 2007 enabled the company to minimise its tax bill - which the EU considers to be illegal state aid. With that it dropped a €13 billion (£11.8 billion) 'fine' that should cover the company's back taxes.
Apple CEO Tim Cook condemned the decision, calling it maddening and seemingly getting rather upset that the EU could possibly accuse his company of wrongdoing. Now Cook may have found an ally in Ireland's Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who called the EU's decision to collect back taxes "unjustified".
In an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) newspaper, Donohoe said that the tax rules Apple managed to benefit from were not tailored specifically for the company - and more to the point nobody broke EU or Irish law. He also seemed to resent the fact that the Irish government was acting as a tax collector, since it wasn't the country's responsibility to collect money for the EU.
He also used the opportunity to criticise French and German proposals that would see the EU limit the amount of "strategically important" European companies that can be bought by Chinese investors. Donohoe claims that this would be a danger to Europe's reputation as an advocate of free trade.
The fine has been deposited in escrow for the time being, pending Apple's appeal against the decision. [Reuters]