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Sun Jul 24 03:03:47 SAST 2016

Apple to pay over R5 billion in Italy tax fraud probe: tax office

AFP | 30 December, 2015 11:41
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc.
Image by: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

US tech giant Apple has agreed to pay up 318 million euros (R5.353 billion) in Italy to settle a probe into alleged tax fraud, a spokesman for the tax office said Tuesday.

The company's Italian subsidiary has been under investigation for allegedly failing to declare more than one billion euros ($1.3 billion) to the tax man.

This follows Apple's chief Tim Cook rejecting claims that the company is sidestepping taxes in the US.

Crackdown

World leaders last month approved a crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals such as Apple, Google and McDonald's, major firms whose rock-bottom tax bills have provoked widespread outrage in the United States and beyond.

Cook argued that Apple pays the biggest tax tab in the United States and that it keeps more money overseas than other company because two-thirds of its business is there.

Cook's staunch defense of the California-based technology colossus came during an interview with Charlie Rose in a 60 Minutes news program interview to be aired on Sunday on CBS.

"That's total political crap, there is no truth behind it," Cook responded when pressed about the highly contentious tax issue in a short preview of the interview.

"We pay every tax dollar we owe."

Tax needs revamp

Cook laid the blame on an outdated US tax code, calling for it to be revamped for modern times.

"This is a tax code that was made for the Industrial Age, not the Digital Age," Cook said.

"It's backwards. It's awful for America."

The empassioned response from Cook followed Rose contending that many members of Congress believe Apple is perpetuating a scheme to pay little or no taxes on $74 billion in overseas revenue.

"I'd love to bring it home," Cook said of cash kept outside the US.

"But don't because it would cost me 40 percent to bring it home and I don't think this is a reasonable thing to do."

Luxleaks

It comes a year after the "LuxLeaks" revelations that some of the world's biggest companies -- also including Pepsi and Ikea -- had lowered their tax rates to as little as one percent in secret pacts with tax authorities in Luxembourg.

US President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron joined fellow leaders in endorsing a clampdown drawn up by the wealthy nations' Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD calculates that national governments lose $100-240 billion, or 4-10 percent of global tax revenues, every year because of the tax-minimizing schemes of multinationals.

Its 15-point plan, adopted after years of negotiations, seeks to oblige multinationals to pay tax in the country where their main business activity is based.

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