Apple has reportedly declined to sign on to a new French initiative that asks big tech companies to commit to paying their “fair share” of tax.
French President Emmanuel Macron has set up a “Tech for Good Call” that will seek to implement these changes. However, while Google, Microsoft, Facebook and 72 other companies have joined, Apple and Amazon haven’t signed on yet.
According to Reuters:
Apple declined to comment, but French officials said talks with the group were ongoing and they could still join the initiative, details of which will be published officially by Tuesday. A representative for Amazon, which French officials said had declined to join the initiative, did not return a request for comment.
The French initiative is not legally binding. Nonetheless, Macron is taking it very seriously. He plans to use it to influence future negotiations when it comes to the regulation of big tech.
Tech for Good Call isn’t only about taxes. In addition to asking for a commitment to “contribute fairly to the taxes in countries where [tech giants] operate,” it also covers other areas. These include stopping the spread of “child sexual abuse material, terrorist or extreme violence online contents” and supporting new sustainable initiatives.
The only sure things are new iPhones, death and taxes
At this point, it remains clear why Apple did not back the initiative. Apple CEO Tim Cook previously called for a global overhaul of corporate taxes. But he also consistently insists that Apple pays its fair share.
During a 2015 “Inside Apple” episode of 60 Minutes, Cook dismissed reports that Apple doesn’t pay its way as “total political crap.” In an interview this year, he said that Apple’s “responsibility is to pay what we owe.” Beyond this, Cook notes how Apple contributes through donations and initiatives like its COVID-19 crisis response.
“My own view is that you pay what you owe in taxes, and then you give back to society,” he said.
However, there is some precedent for believing that Apple doesn’t pay the full amount it should. In 2019, Apple agreed to pay French authorities around $571 million in back taxes. (With that said, a separate, much larger EU tax bill was overruled in Apple’s favor earlier this year.)