The EU forced Ireland to take the money after saying it was illegal to ask Apple for so little tax.
What it means: Governments make a lot of their money from taxes. And while none of us really like being taxed, most of us do like the stuff a (competent) government pays for with those taxes - roads and schools and hospitals and so on.
So it seems kinda weird that Ireland would look at Apple, see all those billions of dollars the smartphone company makes, and ask it for less than one percent of that money. It’s not like Ireland is completely anti-tax; most Irish workers pay a 20 percent tax on their salary and most businesses in Ireland pay a corporation tax (that’s just a tax on a business’ profits) of 12.5 percent. So what gives?
Basically, the Irish government really, really wanted Apple to set up its European HQs in their country, so much so that they offered it a super-low tax rate as an incentive (tbf, it’s not like they were going to win on their weather). That’s because if Apple was based in Ireland, they would hire lots of Irish workers. Which they have - about 6,000 of them. And that’s not including all the other Irish people who got jobs doing things like selling lunches to Apple employees or actually building the new HQ.
But the EU thinks it’s unfair for Ireland to give Apple such a good tax deal and not offer the same low rate to all other companies. It calls this ‘illegal state aid’ which is basically accusing the Irish government of helping a (rich and powerful and American) company get a leg up on its competitors.
We’ve moved beyond a world where your country was all that matters. Our economies have become bigger than we realise. Things we use are less and less likely to come from our own country and more likely to have been imported from a country across the globe – this has become so normal that we’ve forgotten what a huge implication this has for how our economies work…