IT guru and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told a conference in Londonderry yesterday that he thought it was “ethically wrong” that Apple did not pay more in tax. Law makers in both London and Washington have recently laid into Apple for its use of a complex web of company registrations, including in Ireland, to reduce tax payments.
Wozniak – who co-founded Apple with the late Steve Jobs in 1976 – said he didn’t blame the management of Apple for the low rates of tax the company pays across its international operations. “Apple is not to blame – the system is to blame,” he said.
Governments should change the tax system so that the burden between corporations and individuals is fairer, argued Wozniak. “Apple thinks it must have a strategy to maximise profits,” he said. “That is ethically wrong. But for a corporation there is no such thing as corporate ethics.”
As a result, big companies including Apple pay only the tax that the system requires them to pay. “That is because the corporations make sure it works that way,” he suggested.
Wozniak proposed a fundamental change to the system of corporation tax globally to ensure large companies pay their way. “It’s not fair that businesses are in law treated the same way as people, but not in tax. Companies only pay tax on profits.”
If individuals were permitted to adopt the same approach they could claim tax relief on their personal and household costs and only pay tax on the small amount was left, said Wozniak. A more equitable system, he suggested, would be if companies paid tax on their revenues, in the way that individuals pay income tax.
Wozniak added that Apple’s share price is “incredibly low” at present, given the US corporation’s multi billion dollars of reserves, most of which are held abroad. “Maybe not having the cash in the US is the problem,” he suggested with what seemed like the hint of a mischievous grin.