Double Irish

Another bizzy day demands a repeat, this from just last year.  Little has changed since then, and if anything corporate taxes are only closer to the front burner.  Maybe.

In a victory for corporate taxes everywhere, Apple has been ordered to pay as much as €13 billion ($14.7 billion) in back taxes to Ireland. Or, perhaps, in a loss for workers everywhere, a reluctant Ireland is forced to go back on its agreement with Apple to base its European operations there in exchange for much needed tax breaks. Or, perhaps, corporate tax harmonization has been dealt a terrible setback as the European Union (EU) has claimed their turf in what should be hammered out through an international agreement.

What we do know for sure is the massive penalty, the largest ever imposed, is a big blow to Apple, amounting to …. around 7% of their massive $200 billion cash reserves. Unless, of course,  the Republic of Ireland can justify a smaller bill, which they are very much keen to do. So nevermind.

Like corporate taxes themselves, today’s big story is completely negotiable and dependent on your perspective. There will be more to this, but nothing even remotely obvious will happen in the immediate future.

Continue reading

Ireland’s Big Payday

In a victory for corporate taxes everywhere, Apple has been ordered to pay as much as €13 billion ($14.7 billion) in back taxes to Ireland. Or, perhaps, in a loss for workers everywhere, a reluctant Ireland is forced to go back on its agreement with Apple to base its European operations there in exchange for much needed tax breaks. Or, perhaps, corporate tax harmonization has been dealt a terrible setback as the European Union (EU) has claimed their turf in what should be hammered out through an international agreement.

What we do know for sure is the massive penalty, the largest ever imposed, is a big blow to Apple, amounting to …. around 7% of their massive $200 billion cash reserves. Unless, of course,  the Republic of Ireland can justify a smaller bill, which they are very much keen to do. So nevermind.

Like corporate taxes themselves, today’s big story is completely negotiable and dependent on your perspective. There will be more to this, but nothing even remotely obvious will happen in the immediate future.

Continue reading

Apple and the Good Fight

As iPhones become slimmer, the box that contains the electronics that make it work is tighter every day. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the legal box on Apple and other makers of technology is getting a lot tighter, too.

The recent court order to unlock the iPhone is straight out of a TV crime drama. The suspects in the San Bernadino shooting are dead, and the only possible way we can understand their motivation is to gain access to every piece of otherwise private information on them we can. That includes their iPhone, a device encrypted in a way that no one, even the maker, can unlock. But Apple has never tried to create a “backdoor” for their own reasons, and has outlined exactly why they don’t want such a program to even exist.

But there’s much more to this than a TV show. This is real life, and security concerns have come right up against privacy in a complicated and dramatic way.

Continue reading

The Moral Lowground

In case you didn’t think these are times meant for satire, take a look at business and politics in the world today. Some juicy examples of attempts at seizing the moral highground by companies and countries who have been in the news lately. Some of them fall instead into the low ground of hypocrisy1 – even laughably so.

That’s what makes programs like The Daily Show so popular – how can anyone take the news seriously when there are so many stories that need to be told with a skewer in hand rather than a microphone. The jokes are already written up by Reuters, not a satirist. Here are three that are heading up the news today make the point rather plainly. And they’re a good change from discussions about inflation and the value of the US Dollar.

Continue reading

Forbidden Fruit?

How can a company have too much money?  If you believe hedge fund manager David Einhorn, Apple certainly does.  Many in the tech industry “view their self-importance by the size of bank accounts,” according to this Apple investor, and he’s aggressively promoting a unique way of distributing the $137B Apple cash reserve to shareholders ahead of the company’s annual meeting on 27 February.

While Apple’s attitude is on trial – in the courts, the stock market, and the media – it’s hardly an unusual position for a technology driven manufacturing company.  What is unusual is how Einhorn is approaching that pile of cash and how it is distributed.  This may be more evidence that the days of corporate raiders as we know them are over and a potential new golden era for tech companies is ahead.

Right now we still have a fight to finish before anyone can claim victory.

Continue reading