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Tom Molloy: Difficult to believe Apple got it so wrong

WHAT should we make of this sudden interest in the tax affairs of Apple, Google and the others?

One explanation is that MPs, senators and other guardians of the public interest across the world have suddenly woken up to the fact that the tax laws are ridiculously unfair and require a radical overhaul.

They should know. They devised them and pushed them through their respective parliaments.

Another, more likely, explanation is that most of the anger on display is part of a carefully choreographed effort to introduce a tax amnesty for US companies that would suck trillions of dollars out of tax havens across the world including this one.

With Washington's finances in tatters, it would make perfect sense for Congress and the White House to find a mechanism to return the missing cash to the United States. An amnesty would be quick and easy for President Obama but quite painful and costly for us.

One intriguing aspect to this week's testimony from Apple chief executive Tim Cook was the difference between what Mr Cook said under oath and what Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in the various press huddles he uses to speak to the nation.

Mr Cook said clearly that Apple had a deal with the authorities here dating back to the 1980s while Mr Kenny said Apple had no deal.

Eamon Gilmore repeated Mr Kenny's assertion but canny Michael Noonan declined to comment, saying that tax affairs are a private matter.

At least one senior member of the cabinet has learned from Alan Shatter's indiscretion but what should we make of Mr Kenny's claims that Mr Cook is lying? Common sense suggests that the Taoiseach is wrong.

Mr Cook does not seem to know much about how to get Apple to create new products but he surely must know more about Apple's finances than Mr Kenny.

Why would Mr Cook make up a story (under oath) about a special deal? Mr Kenny's denial, which basically said the head of a company employing 4,000 people here is lying, was broadcast around the world on Tuesday.

It will be interesting to see whether he can stand over what he said. Let's hope he can.

Irish firms don't profit from US tax code

Perhaps the single most extraordinary aspect to the tax haven debate is the reluctance of more US companies to base their operations in Ireland. What is wrong with us?

The decision by Swiss-based (but really American) generic drugmaker Actavis to buy Dublin-based Warner Chilcott for €5bn this week shows the compelling logic for transactions like this.

By moving the headquarters of the merged Actavis and Warner Chilcott to Dublin, Actavis will slash its tax bill to 17pc from 28pc.

The company was paying 35pc until it moved to Zug in Switzerland last year when it bought a company there.

The centre of operations remains the oddly named town of Parsippany in New Jersey.

The US tax code drives companies into these sorts of transactions – called tax inversions – because it allows them to take advantage of lower foreign rates while keeping most of their actual operations unchanged.

The transactions are legal as long as the acquiring, US-based company gives up at least a 20pc interest to the foreign target.

The Actavis deal, the seventh biggest in the world so far this year, is only the most recent tax inversion deal to benefit an Irish company.

Last year, a Cleveland, Ohio-based hydraulics manufacturer called Eaton bought Maynooth-based Cooper Industries for $11.8bn, relocated to Ireland, and said it would save itself about $160m in taxes.

Have you heard of either company? No? Neither had I until recently. Obviously transactions like this are crazy and it beggars belief that the US authorities permit such deals.

What is even more bewildering is the inability of Irish companies to profit from the US tax code.

Irish Independent