We Should Be The Apple Of Our Government’s Eye – Not Corporations

The news that Apple owes the Irish government back taxes of around 13 billion Euros has thrown tax and inequality back into the spotlight. The less interesting part of the story is Apple’s obvious quest to lower its tax bill. Some might say that a bear in the woods will do what a bear does. The more interesting part is the Irish government’s role in all this. On top of Ireland’s famously low – and some would say ruinous – corporation tax rate, it seems its government rolled out the extra deep-pile red carpet in the case of Apple, allowing it to pay almost no tax at all.

All this was being done while the Irish government imposed one of the harshest programmes of austerity outside of Greece. It’s not hard to join up the dots here. Whether the Irish government has been acting against the interests of its own people does not seem an unreasonable question to ask. The UK government should be careful when, with seemingly indecent haste, it appears to be rolling out its own extra spongy red carpet to Apple.

If multi-national corporations and very rich people won’t pay their fair share of taxes (and it seems a lot of them don’t) that leaves smaller companies and the average tax-payer to pick up the bill. The argument for large companies getting preferential tax arrangements seems to hinge on the idea that governments and their people should be extra grateful for the investment in jobs that they bring. This is, of course, nonsense. If that principle was applied by smaller and medium sized companies, as well as working people, then the world economy would soon grind to a halt. 

It cannot be repeated often enough that taxation is the price we all pay for civilisation. We can’t have a situation where the richest and most able to pay tax, in fact, pay the least. It would be amusing to see how these multi-national corporations fared if governments restricted their access to publicly provided services such as roads, public transport, health and education systems to the same proportion as their taxes. They would be forced to employ only privately educated, privately treated people with helicopters (so they would likely be reduced to their current Board members but have no employees). 

Fair taxation stands at the heart of a fair economy. Without it, we will be left with a tiny smear of private affluence gated off from a large slick of public squalor. Government’s first duty is to the welfare of its people, not the profits of large companies.

Bill Kerry, Supporters and Local Groups Manager