The Grand Canal at The Barge, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Thanks Kevin Whitty
Elizabeth B writes:
I know you don’t normally do this, but the youngest and smallest member of our family was lost in Dublin Airport this morning.
His name is Nigel, he is a wooden electric Ukulele in a hard silver case, and he turns one year old tomorrow. His owner (age 17) is flying back to Bermuda without him….and is devastated.
Any help your lovely readers can give us to get him back is much appreciated! (Yes, we filled out the lost and found forms) Thanks in advance, Broadsheeters! #FindingNigel
A new exhibit at the Gallery of Steel Figures in the Polish city of Pruszków – four iconic racers (a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, a Bugatti Veyron, a Maserati GranTurismo, and a Lamborghini Aventador) built to scale from scrap metal with scrupulous attention to detail by 50 artists over the last five years.
From top: Why Apple owes Ireland; Paul Murphy TD
Ireland has functioned as a tax haven for major corporations for decades and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
There should be no confusion.
Paul Murphy TD writes:
That’s the government response to the EU Commission ruling that Apple owes €13 billion plus interest in unpaid taxes to the Irish state – an amount that would come close to €19 billion.
It has to be presented as very complicated because the simple reality of it is too explosive.
James Connolly had it right over 100 years ago when he wrote:
“Governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” it’s supposed to operate subtly so the government preserves the illusion of acting in an imagined “national interest”.
With over €13 billion owed to the state by a corporation which has a cash pile of close to $200 billion that subtlety has gone out the window. There is a choice to try to claim that money to use it resolve the many devastating social crises people in this country face, or to fight tooth and nail to keep it on Apple’s balance sheet.
The government’s choice, backed up by Fianna Fáil, is clear – they’ll fight for Apple to keep it and they’ll spend yet more money doing so. But in making that choice they are in danger of exposing the reality that the establishment parties as representing the 1%.
That is why it has to be made very complicated. Here are some of the key reasons the government says “it’s complicated”:
1. “We cannot be responsible for taking the tax from other countries.” (Brian Hayes MEP on Sean O’Rourke 30 August 2016)
The situation is presented by the government as if Ireland somehow stumbled into being a tax haven par excellence in the European Union. This is scraping the barrel of disingenuity. Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe weren’t incorporated in Ireland by accident.
They were there because of a conscious policy of government, implemented by Revenue to allow corporations to funnel profits through Ireland paying effectively no tax.
In this case, two tax rulings were given by Revenue in 1991 and 2007 to Apple in order explicitly to allow Apple to count tens of billions of euros of profit on a yearly basis on the books of Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe and pay a tax rate as low as 0.0005%.
The government can’t have its cake and eat it.
The fact that these elements of Apple’s operations made huge profits and paid almost no tax seems to be undisputed by the government. Then they should accept that significant tax is owed and should be paid.
“The Commission wearing another hat… would require monies like this to be taken off the national debt” (Minister Noonan on News at One 30 August 2016)
This was an argument wheeled out yesterday and regurgitated by many journalists to try to cut across the predictable anger that the government would rather Apple have this money than spend it on homes for example.
When EU Commissioner Vestager appeared on RTE’s Drivetime later and flatly denied it – saying that the money could also be used for capital expenditure, Minister Paschal O’Donoghue had to admit that’s the case.
So now the government accepts, that even within the Fiscal Treaty austerity straitjacket, the money could be spent on capital expenditure, including housing.
2. Apple is going to appeal the Commission decision anyway
It’s Apple’s own business what it does to try to keep its cash mountain growing. The government is supposed to represent people in Ireland.A decision by the Irish government to “fight it in the European courts” (Noonan, RTE News at One 30 August 2016) will go down as this government’s bank guarantee moment.
It will be nauseating for millions of people that they will spend public money to try to allow Apple to get richer while two thousand children are in emergency homeless accommodation.
3. Other countries could have a claim on the money
Of course other countries could have a claim on unpaid tax by Apple. It is presented by the government as if there is now a pot of €13 billion which would have to be divided up between countries that would claim it. That’s not the case.
The €13 billion figure would increase if other countries were to take cases against Apple for unpaid taxes, because they mostly have higher rates of corporation tax than 12.5%.
Ireland is a key conduit in a global tax avoidance chain. The only winners from that are the big corporations and the lawyers and accountants who make a fortune from devising ways for their clients to avoid paying tax. The losers are the public in this country, in other developed countries, but particularly people in developing countries.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development published a study last year which found that developing countries lost about $100 billion a year in tax avoidance by major corporations. That is an issue of global injustice – and Ireland should stop being a country which facilitates the flood of wealth upwards to the 1%.
4.. But what about all the multinational jobs?
This has become the equivalent of Helen Lovejoy’s “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” from the Simpsons.
The government is consciously engaging in scaremongering suggesting that all 187,000 jobs will go if one company, Apple, is forced to pay the over €13 billion in back taxes that are owed. They are preying on the fears of those who work in the multinationals and their families.
The fact that they can do so speaks volumes about the unstable economic system they are committed to. The over 5,000 people who work for Apple in Cork do real work – they create wealth and profits for Apple.
However, the vast majority of Apple’s ‘activity’ in Ireland has been nothing of the sort – it is simply a con to ensure that they don’t pay any tax.
We should reject the scaremongering which is designed to ensure that multinationals will continue to be able to not pay any tax, but also challenge the model which allows the government to use these threats.
Fintan O’Toole in today’s Irish Times is 100% accurate when he writes that the “reputational damage” that the government fears is actually ““damage to our well-earned reputation among corporations for facilitating tax avoidance on a global scale.”
Together with the ludicrous 26% growth rate which bears no relationship to the real economy or people’s lives, this ruling illustrates the fundamental unsustainability of the chosen developmental model of the political establishment in this country.
Hawking Ireland as a location with low or non-existent corporation tax, low data regulation and low wages has delivered GDP growth, but a deeply unequal society without any significant manufacturing base and dependent upon the whims of major corporations.
That model is now a failure and should be recognised as such. If we want a real and sustainable recovery, a break from the rule of corporations and the tax haven model is needed.
Instead of “committees of the rich”, we need a left government with socialist policies committed to sustainable development. That means forcing the corporations and rich to pay their taxes.
It also means using some of those resources to fund significant public investment, for example in green energy which could provide tens of thousands of quality jobs.
It means developing an industrial policy based on democratic public ownership of the key resources and sources of wealth in our economy and planning to meet people’s needs.
It’s not complicated. It’s simple.
Paul Murphy is a TD Anti Austerity Alliance. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy/AAA
Knockbawn, The Burnaby, Greystones, Coounty Wicklow
Is Gene in?
In 1969 the man born Jerome Silberman took a walk through the Burnaby.
There are, of course, many, many fine houses in that particular part of Greystones, but one house in particular caught Gene Wilder’s eye.
And so, being a confident-verging-on-cocky young Hollywood star – The Producers had proven the big hit of 1967 – Gene Wilder walked up to the front door and knocked.
A rather surprised Mr O’Farrell answered.
“Yes,” he said. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, I was just admiring your house,” replied Wilder. “It’s very, very beautiful. And I’d like to rent it.”
“Well, it’s not for rent. We live here. All the time.”
“Oh, but it would only be for three months. I’m shooting a movie in Dublin, and I just need somewhere to stay temporarily. And your house would just be perfect.”
“Are you mad? It is, indeed, perfect. And that’s why we plan to stay in it. All the time.”
“But surely we could come to some arrangement…?”
“Well, I’m sure you Hollywood types normally get your way in such dealings, but you’re far from Hollywood now. You’re in Greystones.”
“Look, perhaps we could go inside, and I can make you a simple offer. It would be crude to talk money out on the doorstep like this…”
And so, family lore has it, Gene Wilder and Mr O’Farrell went inside, to see just how much money this big Hollywood star had in mind when it came to renting the family home for six months.
Shortly afterwards, the O’Farrells went to stay with relatives for three months, whilst Gene Wilder went and spent his days shooting Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx, and his nights sleeping in Knockbawn, right here in sunny Greystones….
Yesterday: Gene Wilder Dead At 83
Wonka pic: Niall N
From top: Ghias Aljundi and Razan Ibraheem
Will you be there Saturday afternoon?
Maybe stop by the Leviathan tent and meet Ghias and Razan, from Syria.
Amnesty International Ireland writes:
As Europe drags its heels on providing solutions to move refugees and asylum-seekers from Greece, thousands of men, women and children are living in filthy unsafe warehouses or tents, or sleeping rough under the relentless summer heat.
At Electric Picnic 2016, Amnesty International is raising awareness of the plight of refugees and asking festival-goers to join our campaign for change.
Amnesty Hour at Leviathan will highlight the experiences of Razan Ibraheem and Ghias Aljundi, both originally from Syria now living in Ireland and the UK.
When Razan came to Ireland to study in 2011, she never imagined that brutal conflict would mean she could not return home to Syria. She recently returned from volunteering on the Greek island of Samos.
“The hardest thing about being a refugee is when people make you feel unwanted,” Ghias says. He was imprisoned for four years and tortured for his journalism and human rights work, before fleeing to the UK in 1999. Today, he volunteers to help refugees arriving in Greece. He never expected that one day he would help rescue his own family.
Today, Europe is facing the biggest refugee and migrant crisis since the Second World War. Join us for Amnesty Hour at Leviathan to hear these powerful personal stories and to learn about how you can be part of our campaign for change.
Amnesty will be collecting signatures calling on the Greek Government to act swiftly to improve their living conditions and wellbeing.
Festival-goers will also have an opportunity to participate in our thumbprint action. Fingerprinting is the method used to identify asylum-seekers and migrants within the EU. Often, people are forced to giving fingerprints without their consent.
Amnesty International has found cases were children as young as three were forced to give their finger print as ‘proof’ of their consent to be returned from Turkey to Syria.
To express solidarity with refugees we are building a two-metre solidarity wall where festival-goers can leave their own thumbprint.
Join us for Amnesty Hour at Leviathan, at 3.45pm on Saturday September 3rd. Or follow the conversation online using the hashtag #IWelcome refugees.
More information on Amnesty’s campaign for refugee rights is available here
Ghias’s powerful personal story is available here
Pics: Flickr/Jodi Hilton/IRIN
From top: Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and economist Joseph Stiglitz
On the Today with Seán O’Rourke show.
Fine Gael Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy; former IMF director Donal O’Donovan, and Irish Independent editor Fionnan Sheahan were on the panel to talk about the Apple tax ruling.
Later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz spoke to Mr O’Rourke.
Grab a tay.
Richard Bruton: “The principle, that the Irish Revenue authorities ruled on in 1991 and in 2007 was a standard approach. The principle that they enunciated was that a company, based in Ireland, should pay tax on its Irish activities and that was the ruling that was applied but what the EU is trying to now used state aid rules to do is to say that Ireland should become the international policeman for dealing with worldwide problems where companies are seen to play one tax code off against another. Very specifically, in relation to the US situation as you know, they offer a deferral tax system where the liability for tax in the US, which is obviously legitimate ultimately by companies like Apple, where all their research and development goes on – they allow a deferral so that tax is not brought back to the US authorities. But the EU itself has recognised that this €13billion is not available to Ireland because the US, it recognises that the US has a legitimate interest in getting access to this tax revenue and, indeed, their deferral rules would see that revenue taxable in the US and Apple have said that so Donal [O’Donovan] is simply wrong. The [EU] Commission isn’t authoritative on this issue, they are seeking to break entirely new ground…”
Sean O’Rourke: “Well no, what they’re doing is using the rules on the single market which prohibit member states from tailoring special inducements to incur rich companies to locate operations on their soil and the very fact that we allowed Apple, and we connived with Apple nationally, not necessarily breaking any of our own rules, but we allowed them to use Ireland as the basis for this, effectively, non-existent headquarters – no employees, no activity, to put money offshore and to avoid paying tax. It stinks to high heaven and we’ve been caught out on it and maybe we should just accept that fact.”
Bruton: “No you’re wrong, Seán. Ireland has a substantial substance from companies like Apple, 350, 000 over all. In the case of Apple, it’s 6,000 employees and they have paid tax on their earnings in Ireland.”
O’Rourke: “But why do we allow, why do we allow the to pay virtually no tax on their worldwide earnings or 90% of them…”
Bruton: “We apply…”
O’Rourke: “Why do we facilitate that?”
Bruton: “Don’t talk me down when I’m trying to answer….”
Bruton: “The EU wants to make Ireland some sort of international tax policeman which would be entirely negative to our interests and so many countries invested here.”
Paul Murphy: “…This argument by Fianna Fáil and the Government is utterly disingenuous and dishonest. The idea is that somehow Ireland stumbled into this situation of being a tax haven and different companies are managed together in the different loopholes of different countries and they all just happened to set up in Ireland. It was designed to do that. That’s the point of the tax ruling in 1991. So it isn’t about the [EU] Commission now asking Ireland to be a tax policeman in retrospect, because in 1991 and 2007, a ruling was designed to say to Apple: we don’t mind if you come here and you set up Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe. And you have head offices that have nobody working for them whatsoever and you funnel through $22billion of profits a year, in the case of Apple Sales International and, don’t worry, we won’t charge you tax on it. So we didn’t stumble into this situation, it was a designed thing and now the Government is trying to like make things not clear because the Government has a real problem on it.”
O’Rourke: “Donal, you don’t often agree or nod when Paul Murphy is speaking but you’re nodding vigorously there.”
Donal O’Donovan: “Well, you know, you’re right, I don’t often agree with Joseph Stiglitz either but actually I do think there’s a great deal of truth in what Paul says. This is something that has not happened by accident. This is a long-plan strategy and we did remove parts of this last year, and the year before but we did so at the point of a gun. I mean Minister [for Finance] Noonan was quite right when he removed the ‘double Irish’ and his [inaudible] residency but he waited until he had absolutely overwhelming pressure arising for the US and elsewhere and public opinion. And I think we’ve been on the back foot of this, Sean. We have reacted when we’ve been pushed into reacting, there’s no doubt about it that we have not been proactive in earlier years in trying to change the situation. And really, it’s a much bigger issue than the technical question of the legal matters who approved what in 1991. Really this has become a political and moral issue. We’ve seen ever since the US Congress held hearings, we’ve seen it with Panama Papers, Lux Leaks, everything, our 26% [rise in GDP] figure is related to this. All of this, the world is changing and, again, I wouldn’t always agree with Fintan O’Toole on many things but, this morning, he said we have to be on the right side of history and we should get on the right side of history.”
O’Rourke: “So, Richard Bruton… if the situation is changing, and you’ve highlighted yourself how the Government had introduced measures last year, if the situation is changing, why don’t we sort of shrug our shoulders and say to Apple, ‘look, sorry guys, the world is moving along, you’ve got a massive cash pile, something in the order of, is $230billion, we have to take a sizeable slice out of it’, the rules have changed and maybe we’re not going to lose a load of jobs if we do that.”
O’Donovan: “Well I think that’s right because the arrangements that gave rise to this, you’re absolutely right, have been changed already so it’s not that we’re relying on this to continue in the future… we should do the right thing and make up for it.”
O’Rourke: “Could we not take that approach, Richard Bruton?”
Bruton: “No, because we have established in the OECD a process whereby these sort of reforms will be done on a collective basis, with countries acting together and that is the approach that has already brought the sort of changes we’re talking about where, the way in which companies can aggressively play one tax off, one country off another is being wound back. There is numerous examples of where that occurs in the treatment of interest, the treatment of capital, the treatment of company resident, the treatment of intellectual property, the treatment of deferral of tax and so on and what we have to do is collectively sit down and work out agreements that will be applied universally. What the EU wants to do is to make Ireland the international policeman – to go out and say to the US, ‘you should not be applying deferral system’, ‘you should be collecting money from Apple straight away’ so Ireland should go and collect that money….Let’s not forget that if the word of the Irish authorities, independent Revenue Commissioners, independent of Government, if that cannot be relied upon, on companies who have invested and employed 350,000 people in Ireland, up and down the country…”
O’Rourke: “But we gave our word and then showed we were up to no good. We were conniving with these guys to avoid paying tax…”
Bruton: “That is precisely what we will be fighting to appeal against. There is no, it is not the case that we were conniving with anyone. We made legitimate rulings with the Revenue Commissioners made independently and they offered their opinion and companies have made their decision…”
O’Rourke: “But to quote [European Competition] Commissioner Margrethe Vestager yesterday, if my tax bill was 0.05%, falling to 0.005%, I would think I would need to have a second look.”
Bruton: “But those are bogus numbers because what that ruling is saying is that the activities of Apple in the US, where they do all their research and development, their manufacturing in China, should be taxed, that tax should be collected in Ireland. There is no basis for that, the US authorities will collect tax from Apple on the so-called deferral system that they have and, as you know, this is hotly debated in the US, how they should reform that and whether they should have instruments to bring that money…”
O’Donovan: “I just want to say…if the Minister Bruton could say: when these rulings were issued in 1991 and 2007, and I accept that they were rulings by the Revenue, did the Revenue check with Brussels at the time, as to whether these rulings were, or would be considered consistent with state aid rules? Because if we went ahead and did them, and issued them without getting the OK from Brussels, then we can’t really complain if, later, Brussels, says: ‘well, no I’m sorry you did these rulings but they were illegal.”
Bruton: “These are rulings on tax matters and the Irish authorities took a view that is absolutely common across tax world that you are taxed in the jurisdiction on the activities in your jurisdiction. The issue then around tax structures that companies have – that involves much more elaborate collaboration across the system and we’ve sent up vents to precisely address that, this process at the OECD…”
Talk over each other
Murphy: “Minister, you know you’re being dishonest there, you do. You know that the thing was set up to facilitate it, that’s the point of the tax rulings and I think the Government’s spin around this is designed to make it seem all so very complicated right.”
Bruton: “That is not the case.”
Murphy: And the reality is extremely clear: one of the biggest, multinational corporations in the world didn’t pay tax to the tune of €13billion-plus. It’ll get close to €19billion when you add on interest to Ireland and we are owed that tax. Now, Government would like to make it seem. Yesterday they said, first of all, well, at least the Commission has given us a clean bill of health in terms of Google and Facebook, the Commission had to come out and say, ‘no, we haven’t, we haven’t looked at them’. Then, the Government said, ‘but sure even if we got the money, we could only spend it on paying down the debt’, the Commission came out and said, ‘no, that’s not the case, you can spend it on capital expenditure. And the Government has a major political problem – this is their bank guarantee moment..”
O’Rourke: “And this is my queue to bring in Fionnan Sheahan. Just speaking of the Government’s political problem. Do you think they’re going to give us a decision today based on Michael Noonan’s recommendation – an immediate decision to appeal?”
Fionnan Sheahan: “No. I think, as Donal has said, they will take time to assess the ruling. You said at the start, the Government’s decision was to appeal – that was half the government the other half was saying something very different. And if you look at the government’s handling of this: the European Commission versus our Government has been a bit like Borgen versus Ballymagash. We have Margrethe Vestager basically cleaning us out for an hour yesterday on the steps of the European Commission building, quite authoritatively setting out her case on the basis of the European Commission’s ruling and then we have Michael Noonan basically floundering around, talking about all folksy tales about seed potatoes and so on and so forth. Well, to give you an old folksy analogy to match that: she ate him without salt. And I think there are major questions about Michael Noonan’s handling of this entire affair over recent months.”
Meanwhile, later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz also spoke to Mr O’Rourke, saying:
“I think they’re [the Irish Government] wrong [to appeal]. I think, it was an interesting discussion [above]. I thought, to put it frankly, what the minister was saying is all utter balderdash. The fact is that you were encouraging tax avoidance, you knew it, let’s not make any pretence about it. You got a few jobs at the cost of stealing revenues away from countries around the world and that’s the kind of activity that has to be stopped.
Listen back in full here
On RTÉ’s Six One.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan spoke to Brian Dobson about the ruling.
During their discussion, Mr Noonan said:
“This isn’t a moral issue. This is a financial and a taxation issue.”
There you go.
Watch back in full here