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Dr Elaine Byrne and Professor Justin O’Brien: No hiding from tax-haven debate

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Apple CEO Tim Cook (C) appears before a Senate homeland security and governmental affairs investigations subcommittee hearing on offshore profit shifting and the U.S. tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013. Apple Inc came under fire on Tuesday at a Senate hearing over an investigation that alleged the U.S. high technology icon has kept billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries and paid little or no taxes to any government. Pictured are committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican John McCain (R) (R-AZ).    REUTERS/Jason Reed    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Apple CEO Tim Cook (C) appears before a Senate homeland security and governmental affairs investigations subcommittee hearing on offshore profit shifting and the U.S. tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013. Apple Inc came under fire on Tuesday at a Senate hearing over an investigation that alleged the U.S. high technology icon has kept billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries and paid little or no taxes to any government. Pictured are committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican John McCain (R) (R-AZ). REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Apple CEO Tim Cook (C) appears before a Senate homeland security and governmental affairs investigations subcommittee hearing on offshore profit shifting and the U.S. tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013. Apple Inc came under fire on Tuesday at a Senate hearing over an investigation that alleged the U.S. high technology icon has kept billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries and paid little or no taxes to any government. Pictured are committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican John McCain (R) (R-AZ). REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Ireland was described as a "tax haven" in the US Senate last week. Apple's use of entirely legal yet ethically dubious tax arrangements has raised significant questions around global tax policy co-ordination and the role of tax havens. While there is no suggestion that Apple engaged in illegal conduct, its creative tax accounting has put Ireland centre stage in the growing international momentum for tax reform.

The Congressional Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations, led by Senator Carl Levin, released a 40-page memorandum last Monday, referencing Ireland on 135 separate occasions. It revealed how blurred the dividing line between the legitimate exploitation of loopholes and illegitimate exploitation has become.


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