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Apple co-founder says company's tax deal is unethical, damaging

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reacts during his talk at the EBN Congress, one of Europe's largest business events which is being held in Derry, in Northern Ireland, May 30, 2013

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reacts during his talk at the EBN Congress, one of Europe's largest business events which is being held in Derry, in Northern Ireland, May 30, 2013

Reuters

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reacts during his talk at the EBN Congress, one of Europe's largest business events which is being held in Derry, in Northern Ireland, May 30, 2013

THE co-founder of Apple believes its use of Ireland to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes was unethical, and the scandal has damaged the company's reputation.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Steve Wozniak, who set up the computing giant with Steve Jobs, questioned why Apple had not publicised how it uses its operation in Cork to avoid paying tax on tens of billions of dollars in profits.

"It's not ethical by personal standards. Apple itself isn't to blame, and neither are other companies; they are using the system as it's set up.

"Why is the system that way though? It is because big companies [like Apple] want it that way. Money buys the rules," he said.

"Why didn't companies like Apple tell us 20 years ago, 'here is how we're going to have zero taxes and this is our method'?

"You are closed and not open when you do something you think people will judge as wrong. Apple was not open," he added.

Last week a US Senate investigation found that Apple used two subsidiaries based in Cork to avoid paying corporation tax on overseas profits. The investigation found Apple paid 1.9pc tax on profits of $37bn (€28bn) last year.

Mr Wozniak, who was seen as the engineer and 'ideas guy' for Apple while Mr Jobs grew the business, believes those revelations have damaged Apple's reputation among consumers.

"Apple didn't get its value from spreadsheet analysis of what its products are, such as how much memory they have or how fast they run. Based purely on that, it wouldn't fare any better than the competition. It's value is really based on the brand, so its corporate reputation is very important to Apple.

"I think [the tax row] hurt it a bit but I think most people understand that every big company does this and Apple isn't alone," he added.

Mr Wozniak, who is no longer involved with Apple day-to-day, was in Derry to speak at a Northern Ireland business and innovation centre event where he said the idea of wearable technology such as Google Glass and the mooted Apple smartwatch, was fast becoming the future of the industry.

"I'm fascinated by Google Glass, the product is just a wonderful, wonderful device as far as I'm concerned.

"I'm an Apple guy obviously but the future of computing is about making computers more intelligent and more human seeming. The key to that will be access to information and indexing it, and Google is the market leader in that area," Mr Wozniak claimed.

'The Woz', as he is known, also poured cold water on the idea that all students should study science, computing and maths, in contrast to pressure from various quarters in Ireland.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of London's Tech City has played down any idea of a competition between London and Dublin for investment.

Tech City in East London is seen as the biggest rival to Dublin's 'Silicon Docks' for attracting investment from the likes of Google and Facebook as well as start-ups looking for somewhere to base themselves.

Ben Southworth however dismissed any idea of a rivalry. "I want to promote London but my main concern is that companies are created and innovate. If that's in Dublin instead of London, that's fine," he said.

Irish Independent