In a remarkable act of corporate conjuring, Apple has succeeded in making its head office disappear. This raises serious issues for CEO Tim Cook: has his chair disappeared too? Has Tim Cook disappeared?
Probably not because Apple have kicked up a fuss following the EU’s demands to pay back corporation tax owing to the Irish government who, in a twist of irony bordering on the pornographic, don’t want it.
We can spend all day arguing the toss over who is right. The EU for ‘enforcing the law on state aid,’ or Apple, who ‘pay all taxes they are expected to pay,’ or the Irish government who want to ‘attract jobs and investment.’ I’ll leave the economists to sort that one out.
What puzzles me is how a company can have a head office that doesn’t exist.
According to the news – and it was on Radio 4 so it must be true – Apple’s head office is the one raking in the cash and making the big profits. But it doesn’t reside in any identifiable country so comes under no tax jurisdiction. It has no premises, no front door, no letterbox, no car park, but that doesn’t matter because it has no employees.
With no physical presence on the ground and no human being to say ‘yeah, I work for them,’ how does Apple know it’s still there? How can a nonentity make a profit? (Sorry for all the questions.) If machines make the profit who switches them on in the morning?
I’m sure there’s a financial instrument that explains how this can be done. Perhaps it was all conceived by the scriptwriters of Doctor Who. But in my opinion if the profit is made by a non-existent head office then the profit must be non-existent, consistent with the existential reality of the head office, and therefore not liable to tax.
Unless. . . .
Some supervillain with a financial background claims to be the owner of the non-existent land on which the non-existent office was not built. And he wants the rent that Apple haven’t paid for the last twenty-two years. Get out of that one Apple.
Are you still there, Tim? Tim . . . no, he’s gone.