Irish media are raising a fuss over Gov. Jerry Brown’s comments on the Irish tax laws that shelter Apple from billions of dollars in U.S. taxes.
“I don’t know how you got to have Apple to have so much of their business in Ireland, we thought they were a Californian company,” a reporter from the Irish Independent quoted Brown saying Friday evening at Enterprise Ireland, an event for Irish start-ups doing business in San Francisco. Among those speaking was the Irish prime minister.
“When you look at their tax returns, they’re really an Irish company ... it’s called creative accounting,” Brown was quoted as saying.
The newspaper called it a “no-holds barred assault on fiscal policy” that drew “gasps” from his audience. The Irish Times reported the same remarks by Brown, but said they were received with “laughter” and noted that Brown went on to praise Irish innovation as well as comment on his own Irish ancestry.
Brown’s press office called it “lighthearted comments” that were “made in jest and received in that spirit.”
“Our friends in the Irish media don’t let things like tone and context get in the way of a good tabloid story,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup. Brown’s office said the “informal reception” was closed to the press but the Irish delegation invited reporters from two Irish publications.
Irish Consul General Philip Grant, who was at the function, also characterized Brown’s remarks as humorous. He said they had been misunderstood by the Irish Independent. “They don’t know how irreverent he can be,” Grant said.
“Nobody was embarrassed by his remarks ... he was saying it jocularly,” Grant said.
The Irish Consulate reports that the trade delegation made its way to Apple headquarters, where CEO Tim Cook waited personally outside to greet Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister. Kenny also dropped in on Cisco, and took a spin in Google’s driver-less car. The day before he signed in at Facebook headquarters.
The tax-haven label is touchy business for Ireland. U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) last month led hearings in Washington on a federal report that one of Apple’s three Irish subsidiaries, with no employees, reported $30 billion in income but paid no taxes in any country over a five-year period. The report also notes Ireland’s statutory tax rate is 12%, but Apple has a negotiated rate of less than 2% a year with Ireland.
Shortly after the federal hearing, Irish ambassador Michael Collins refuted the findings. In a letter to Levin he said Apple had not negotiated a special tax rate to shelter its foreign earnings.