‘Take it, use it’: Jeffrey Sachs to Government on disputed Apple taxes

Leading US economist also supports digital tax on global technology companies

Jeffrey Sachs describes Donald Trump as a “nasty man” and “narcissistic, sadistic, impulsive”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Jeffrey Sachs describes Donald Trump as a “nasty man” and “narcissistic, sadistic, impulsive”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


The Government should use the €13 billion in disputed taxes from technology giant Apple to meet its commitment to overseas aid for the world’s poor, leading US economist Jeffrey Sachs has said.

The special adviser to the United Nations secretary general urged the Government to drop its appeal against the European Commission ruling that Apple received unfair tax incentives from the State.

Part of the money could be used to fulfil the Republic’s long-held pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of gross national income to overseas development aid and “another part could be used for helping Ireland’s poor”, he said.

“Take the money. This is a tax revenue from one of the most successful companies in history. They have plenty of profits. Take it, use it,” he told The Irish Times after speaking at the Institute for International and European Affairs, the think tank.

Mr Sachs said he supported a digital tax on global technology companies, criticising “corporate influence” on tax policy and “the logic of tax competition” as “pervasive”.

“Ireland was part of that story,” he said. “Ireland was used as a transit hub for what I believe was tantamount to large-scale tax evasion, legal perhaps, but really stretching the system very, very badly.”

He acknowledged the Government had moved to close down “some of the most abusive practices” but said that there was “still a long way to go” to create a fair international system that collects more rather than less.

“These companies are very rich, very profitable; they should be paying more in tax and be forced to be more transparent about the nature of their global operations and how this profit is taxed and how the taxes are shared among the countries where these companies operate,” said the Columbia University professor.

Trump tariffs

Mr Sachs condemned US president Donald Trump’s tariffs and trade war with China as “dangerous and reckless”, marking the worst instances of “blatant unilateralist protectionism” since the US tariffs of early 1930s that exacerbated the Great Depression.

He urged Europe to join with China and Russia to demand an end to Mr Trump’s unilateralism in trade.

“Trump is completely irresponsible in what he is doing and the rest of the world should tell him: this is totally unacceptable and if you have complaints go to WTO [World Trade Organisation],” he said.

The economist delivered his most stinging criticism of the US president in his address to the IIEA on the topic of his latest book, A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptions.

Mr Sachs described the property developer-turned-politician as a “nasty man” and “narcissistic, sadistic, impulsive”.

‘Mentally unstable’

“He is mentally unstable and a dangerous person, and do not underestimate that fact,” he said.

“This is not a normal, healthy human being. This is an absolutely impaired individual, the likes of which we have never had as president of the United States.”

The Republican represents “a kind of extreme version of exceptionalism”, which in foreign policy amounted to a retreat from the rule of law, co-operation, principles and multilateral organisations such the UN.

“Trump does not understand co-operation and never has in his life, so this is part of the mental instability,” he said.

“He believes in the deal; the deal is screw the other side as much as you can.”