"We kinda win both ways" – David McWilliams on an Apple tax appeal

As the economist wonders why neither Luxembourg nor the Netherlands have ever been investigated...

donald, trump, president, david, mcwilliams, pat, kenny, president, US, election

David McWilliams. Image: RollingNews.ie

Economist David McWilliams has argued that if the Irish government is well-prepared, it can benefit from joining Apple in appealing the European Commission's decision on the €13 billion in back taxes it owes the country, regardless of the verdict.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, McWilliams acknowledged that it's "a pretty difficult hand we've been given", but suggested we can "win both ways".

"If, for example," McWilliams said, "the appeal goes ahead and Ireland loses and Apple loses, then we get the money anyway."

He suggested that it "wouldn't be inconceivable" for the Government to approach Apple and ask what the country has to gain by fighting the case with the tech giant. This could lead to Apple agreeing to vastly increase their investment in Ireland.

"This is where Ireland... can actually do something proactive in a reasonably difficult situation..."

The broadcaster also suspects that the European Commission will now set its sights on other multinationals that have been based here for a long time.

"If Apple/Ireland lose the appeal, what it means is that the €13 billion will be beginning of what could be a huge windfall. And then, how do we use this?

"It's a bit like an opportunistic oil find. You've kinda struck oil, you didn't expect this. This came out of nowhere."

He recommended using any potential back taxes to create a sovereign wealth fund with the companies' shares and ensure "permanent wealth" for Ireland while also keeping the door open to US multinationals.

"Incredibly political"

McWilliams also took aim at how "incredibly political" he felt the European Commission's pursuit of Apple has been.

"The serial tax avoider in Europe is the Netherlands. You know the 'Double Irish'? That was always with the Netherlands. Haven't you found it really interesting that the biggest tax avoider in Europe, the Netherlands, nobody's investigating?

"You think about Luxembourg. Luxembourg which is the home of the president of the commission, is a tax haven.

"The only reason Luxembourg has never, ever been investigated by the EU is, who hides their money in Luxembourg? Rich Germans. This is political."

Meanwhile, Ireland should maintain its strong ties to America and see itself as an "Atlantic race" rather than a continental European one.

"If Ireland is not part of the American supply chain, our economy will go backwards dramatically," McWilliams told Kenny.

"If you look at it, what do we have apart from the multinationals? We have a good agricultural sector but agriculture tends typically to be low value added. We've a large public sector that needs to be paid for, and a small indigenous industry.

"So when you take out the big American component of that... and I say America because 92% of all multinational investment in our country is American, which pushes us totally on the American side of this argument."