'Ireland stood by us through the tough times'
Apple chief says tax fine 'will not affect' his firm's investment here
A tax fine "will not affect" Apple's investment in Cork, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has said.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Cook ruled out any link between a punitive EU verdict on Apple's Irish tax status and a reduction in investment in the tech giant's Cork facility.
"An adverse ruling will not affect it [Apple's Cork investment]," he said. "This is not a transactional thing. We were here when it was a very, very small company. We've been here through tough times and Ireland stood by us. And now we both get to enjoy the fruits of hanging with each other for a long time and growing together."
The European Commission is expected to rule soon on whether Ireland gave Apple illegal tax breaks. If found culpable, the Irish Government could be forced to collect billions in back taxes from Apple.
However, both the Government and Apple have flatly denied the charges.
"Our advisers have looked at it and they're very clear there was no special deal," he said. "And I have every faith that the system, either initially or eventually, will find the same."
Mr Cook said Apple had been told by the Government that it would appeal any punitive ruling from Brussels over the tax issue.
"The Irish Government has been clear to us that if there's an adverse ruling, they'll appeal," he said. "We feel a deep sense of partnership with Ireland."
And he said that the matter was a completely separate one to the company's investment in Cork.
"It is," he said. "As you can see, by our investment and announcements, we're adding more people here despite things going on with the [European Commission] investigation. We've added a thousand people over the last year and we're going to add a thousand more in the next year-and-a-half. We've found great skills here. And we have every intention of staying."
Last month, the European Commission ruled that the Luxembourg and Dutch governments had given illegal state aid to Starbucks and Fiat. The verdict fuelled speculation that the EU institution may be readying a similar verdict against Ireland in the case of Apple.
Last year, Brussels accused Ireland of striking a special tax deal for Apple, elements of which were "motivated by employment considerations".
In a 21-page document, the commission said that a 1991 Irish tax ruling here appeared to be "reverse engineered" to ensure a specific taxable income for Apple.
The Irish Government has moved to change some parts of its tax law in recent years.
"From an Apple perspective and an Irish Government perspective, [Apple's] announcement shows that whatever controversy there is around Apple's tax status, it hasn't affected their enthusiasm for Ireland and they're continuing to invest here," said Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
"They're very important and they're particularly important to the economy of Cork."
Mr Cook was speaking as he paid a visit to the Independent News & Media (INM) newsroom in central Dublin yesterday, where he witnessed the group’s digital transformation.
He saw firsthand the operations at Independent.ie and the various technology the site uses to be first with trusted breaking news and quality journalism.