The New Yorker's Adam Davidson on Apple's special relationship with Ireland:
A.O.I. [Apple Operations International] is, in one sense, huge, among the largest companies that ever existed, with more than two hundred billion dollars in assets. It is also as small as a company can be, with no physical address and no employees. Phillip Bullock, the head of tax operations for Apple, told a U.S. Senate committee in 2013 that “A.O.I. is incorporated in Ireland; thus, under U.S. law it is not tax resident in the U.S.” That seemed clear enough until his next sentence. “A.O.I. is also not tax resident in Ireland because it does not meet the fact-specific residency requirements of Irish law.” It’s Irish, according to American law; not Irish, according to the Irish. A.O.I., in fact, does not legally exist anywhere, even as it takes in much of the profits from Apple sales outside of the United States.
These sorts of tax-avoidance shenanigans have become a source of political fury in the U.S. and much of Europe. The damage done by American firms finding ways to pay (or not pay) taxes in other countries is one of the few issues about which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seem to broadly agree. Companies need to exist somewhere, and they have to pay their rightful taxes in the place where they exist. Tax policy should be unequivocal, Newtonian: if you are here, you can’t also be not here. The one entity, other than Apple, that didn’t see anything wrong with A.O.I.’s imprecise relationship to Ireland was the Irish government itself, which had enthusiastically supported Apple’s use of its Irish/not-Irish status to pay no taxes at all.
On Monday the European Union's executive commission ruled that the tax benefits Ireland gave Apple constitute illegal state aid, and that Apple owes Ireland €13 billion ($14.5 billion) in back taxes. Washington isn't happy about this: it wants Apple's offshore profits repatriated so that they can be taxed here in the United States, not in Ireland. The New York Times reports:
American lawmakers have for years been assailing companies for dodging taxes with overseas maneuvers. But now that the European Union has done something about it by trying to wrest billions of dollars from Apple, those officials have offered a response viewed by many as rife with hypocrisy: collective outrage. [...]
“It’s remarkable to think that the administration has been flying over to Brussels on taxpayers’ dollars to lobby the European Union against collecting taxes owed in Europe when they’re not collecting the taxes owed here,” said Clark Gascoigne, deputy director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition. “It’s terribly ironic.”