By Rob Price
Apple CEO Tim Cook has declined an invitation to attend a tax committee in Ireland looking into the company's affairs — a decision that has seen him branded as "disrespectful to the Irish people."
As the Irish Times reports, the Irish parliament's finance committee had invited the executive to talk after a ruling by the European Commission that Apple's tax arrangements in Ireland amount to illegal "state aid," and that it owes €13 billion (£11 billion, or $13.8 billion) in taxes.
Both Ireland and Apple deny any wrongdoing.
In a letter, Apple senior director of government affairs Claire Thwaites declined the invitation to the company's CEO, describing the matter as "complex and challenging" and citing ongoing legal counsel.
"Given the sensitive nature of the investigation and the timing, we have been advised not to undertake any other direct activities, which could potentially prejudice future outcomes. It is on this basis that we are unable to appear before the Committee on this occasion," she wrote. (You can read the full letter below.)
It's a decision that has infuriated some. Pearse Doherty, finance spokesperson for Sinn Féin, said in a statement: "Tim Cook appeared before the US Senate hearings and it was his comments there that sparked much of the discussion and possibly even EU action in this case. For him to refuse to attend the Committee now is disrespectful to the Irish people."
Both Apple and Ireland are appealing the August 2016 tax ruling from the European Commission, which could see it forced to pay €13 billion in what the Commission believes are unpaid taxes.
Apple said that "the most profound and harmful effect of this ruling will be on investment and job creation in Europe."
Meanwhile, Ireland argues that the Commission overstepped its mandate, and breached the country's sovereignty. "The Commission breached the duty of good administration by failing to act impartially and in accordance with its duty of care," it said. While the tax ruling would be a short-term windfall for the country, its fear is that long-term, it would scare away other multinational that would otherwise be attracted by its appealing tax structure.
Apple's refusal letter is being made public now, though it was sent on December 20, 2016, in response to an invite sent on December 15. Had Cook agreed to appear, he would have spoken to the committee on February 5, 2017.Here's the full letter:
Dear Ms Dunne,
I refer to your letter of December 15, 2016, and the invitation by the Chairman to Tim Cook, to appear before the Joint Committee on Finance & Public Expenditure on February 2, 2017.
As outlined in the letter, the Committee wishes to engage with us on the State Aid investigation involving Apple in Ireland, published by the European Commission on 30 August 2016.
As you will be aware The Irish Government has submitted their Appeal against the Final Decision to the General Court. Apple has also filed its Appeal.
As you will appreciate, this is a complex and challenging issue, and one on which we are receiving ongoing legal counsel. We are engaging with the Department of Finance and The Revenue Commissions, as well as the European Commission. Given the sensitive nature of the investigation and the timing, we have been advised not to undertake any other direct activities, which could potentially prejudice future outcomes. It is on this basis that we are unable to appear before the Committee on this occasion.
Senior Director, Government Aﬀairs - EMEIA