Apple Australia director has ‘no idea’ what ‘double Irish sandwich’ is

Tony King denies company shifted profits to Ireland at Australian government inquiry

 Apple Australia managing director Tony King told the government inquiry: “I have never been to Ireland on business.” Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Apple Australia managing director Tony King told the government inquiry: “I have never been to Ireland on business.” Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

 

Apple Australia managing director Tony King has told an Australian government inquiry into corporate tax avoidance that he has “no idea” what a tax avoidance method known as the “double Irish sandwich” is.

Senator Christine Milne asked executives from Apple, Google and Microsoft about the “double Irish sandwich with Dutch associations”.

“Senator, I have no idea what you are talking about,” Mr King replied. Ms Milne responded, with an exasperated tone, “You haven’t come here today to say that”. Bill Sample, a global tax executive with Microsoft, said he knew nothing of any “double Dutch” structure, but when Ms Milne said her question was about “double Irish”, he said: “Yes, we have one of those.”

Mr Sample said Microsoft had largely scaled down its use of the “double Irish” and that it holds intellectual property licences in Bermuda.

“I’ve never been to Bermuda,” he said in answer to a question from senator Nick Xenophon.

The inquiry, which comes amid growing public anger over multinationals paying tax abroad on profits earned in Australia, saw Ireland mentioned on several occasions.

Mr Xenophon asked Mr King when was the last time he went to Ireland on business. “I have never been to Ireland on business,” Mr King replied.

“So you’ve shifted . . . close to 10 billion Australian dollars [€7 billion] in untaxed profits to a place you’ve never done any business with?” asked Mr Xenophon.

Mr King denied that Apple had shifted any profits.

Inquiry chairman senator Sam Dastyari explained how corporate tax avoidance works.

“The Australian tax office has figures that says that 60 billion Australian dollars a year is moving to what they know, they’ve already identified, as tax havens.

“The principle here is really simple: what companies are doing is they’re minimising their profits artificially in Australia, where there’s a high-taxing jurisdiction, and maximising them artificially in a lower tax jurisdiction,” said Mr Dastyari.

“There are some legitimate community concerns about how [some multinational companies] are structured . . . when you look at the structures in Singapore, Bermuda and Ireland. It is pretty concerning that some of you would come to the inquiry without basic information.” Antony Ting, a tax expert at the University of Sydney Business School, told ABC television how avoidance works, using the example of an iPad.

“When you pay the 600 Australian dollars for this iPad, 550 Australian dollars in fact is paid to Ireland. Apple has a subsidiary there. That means it leaves very little profit to be taxed in Australia. To make it worse, out of the 550 Australian dollars paid to Ireland, 220 is never taxed anywhere in the world,” he said.