Saturday 24 August 2019

US fuss about Irish tax deals just election fever, says ex-Apple CEO

John Sculley speaking at the Web Summit at the RDS
John Sculley speaking at the Web Summit at the RDS

Ailish O'Hora

The recent corporation tax controversy highlighted by US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not damaging Ireland's reputation as a place to do business, said the former chief executive of Apple, John Sculley.

According to Mr Sculley, the controversy is simply part of US election fever.

Known as the boss "who fired Steve Jobs", Sculley believes the tax inversion drama surrounding the potential multi-billion merger of pharma giants Pfizer and Allergan is to be expected ahead of next year's US election.

Tax inversion is the term for the relocation of a firm's legal domicile to a lower tax country while usually keeping its material operations in the country of origin.

In the Pfizer/Allergan case, the latter is already based in Ireland, where our low 12.5pc corporation tax rate is controversial, and any merger would result in Pfizer benefiting from the lower one.

In addition, Ireland's tax treatment of Apple is currently under investigation and the EU is expected to shortly issue a decision as to whether this country is offering it a 'sweetheart' tax deal.

"I don't think (Ireland's reputation is being damaged). When I was at Pepsi, we were the second international company to come to Ireland. Henry Ford was the first," he told the Irish Independent.

"And when I was with Apple, we were the first high-tech company to invest in Ireland. I met with the IDA and ex-Taoisigh.

"I am a big fan of Ireland. It will continue to do just fine and it has great relationships with the US.

"I'm bullish on Ireland," said Mr Sculley (76), who was chief executive of Apple from the 1980s until 1993.

However, he conceded that the tax inversion issue is a messy business and will have to be addressed by the US government, even if that is unlikely ahead of next year's election.

"There's political gridlock in the US between the Democrats and the Republicans," he said.

"Everybody in the business community realises we have to change the tax code. It's antiquated and causing real problems for multinational companies that want to do business all over the world.

"We have over $2.5 trillion trapped outside of the US which everybody knows needs to be brought back and restructured," he added.

"Right now you can't be too concerned about what Hillary Clinton says or the Republicans, it is election season."

These days, Mr Sculley's attention is mainly dedicated to two firms he co-founded in the past decade, Obi Worldphone and his data analytics firm, Zeta Interactive, which is valued at $1bn.

Irish Independent

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