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Editorial: Apple probe will show our tax system is unfair

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Apple has said that it has received no special consideration from Irish officials

Apple has said that it has received no special consideration from Irish officials

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Apple has said that it has received no special consideration from Irish officials

The European Commission's probe into Apple's tax affairs poses several problems for the State.

The first problem is credibility: this country has given repeated assurances to our partners guaranteeing that there was no state aid. A finding to the contrary would show we misled both the US Senate and the European Commission.

A second problem is our reputation. While we are no longer seen as a basket case, we have some way to go before our reputation for financial rectitude is restored. A finding against this country would copper-fasten the notion abroad that there is something not quite right about the way we do business. It would also leave question marks over the way Apple does business, which might scare off other companies interested in investing here.

In the past, the IDA has made much play about the high-profile names that have moved operations to Ireland. The big names helped in past. Today, they may draw unwanted attention to us.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg are also under investigation but those probes have not received anything like the coverage that the Apple probe attracts, for the simple reason that Apple is the biggest company in the world and its products are among the most visible.

Without seeing the paperwork, and without a deep understanding of the arcane rules of transfer pricing, it is impossible to come to any conclusion about this particular probe into Apple's tax affairs ahead of the Commission's findings.

What we can say with confidence is that a situation where a company can channel hundreds of billions of dollars through Irish subsidiaries that are effectively stateless and do not any pay taxes anywhere is unsatisfactory.

One does not need to be an accountant to know there is something morally wrong with enabling massive companies to avoid tax bills while small companies and individuals pay taxes at much higher levels.

A tax system must be fair. Whatever the European Commission decides, our system is no longer a fair one and is in urgent need of change.

 

NAMA must become more open if it wants new role

The strong hint yesterday that the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) would like to continue beyond its planned wind-up date of 2020 was not unexpected.

The agency's chief executive, Frank Daly, said that NAMA has now gained enormous expertise in the funding, management and sale of property, and nobody would argue with that. What its remit would be remains to be seen, but Environment Minister Alan Kelly is already pressing for the agency to play a key role is dealing with the homelessness crisis by delivering a much-needed social housing programme.

However, if NAMA is to change its role and become a permanent housing agency, it is essential that the Government provides it with a new set of aims and priorities and that it becomes more open in its dealings.

That said, Mr Daly is correct in saying that as an organisation it has developed "significant expertise" in the property sector and it would be a pity if that was not fully utilised so that we get a proper, functioning and stable property market in the years ahead.

Irish Independent