Five pints of Guinness


September 1, 2016

By now you probably have heard the news: The European Union has ruled that Apple has received billions of dollars in illegal tax breaks from Ireland’s government and owes $14.5 billion in back taxes. Although Ireland already has a (relatively low) 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, the EU’s European Commission actually stated in a news release that in 2014, “Apple paid a tax rate of just 0.005 percent on its European profits.”
And in a nod to the U.S., the Commission hinted that Ireland need not be the only country to benefit from correcting Apple’s tax dodge. In particular, the EU points out that some of this tax penalty could go to the United States, rather than Ireland.

There will be appeals. Accusations. Angry protestations. And, probably, in the end some kind of settlement that leaves no one happy.

Nonetheless, the $14.5 billion figure captured the imagination of those of us here at the Voices for Human Needs blog. What could the U.S. do with that money? What could Ireland do with that money?

We decided to answer this question in both a light-hearted way and a serious way.

First, the light-hearted approach (with an assist from the folks over at

  • $14.5 billion could pay for 2.6 billion pints of Guinness – or five pints for every person in the EU.
  • It could pay for 20 million iPhone 6’s from the Irish Apple store – more than four phones for every person in Ireland.
  • It could send every Irish teenager to Cambridge University for three years.
  • It would fund Ireland’s entire health care budget for 2016.
  • Or one-and-a-half times the country’s education budget.
  • Or, if you want to go in a different direction, 13 times Ireland’s defense budget.

Or, if the Irish government really doesn’t want the money, here in the states, $14.5 billion might seriously pay for:

Of course, the $14.5 billion the EU Commission says Apple owes is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Citizens for Tax Justice reminds us CTJ estimates that Apple actually owes as much as $66 billion in U.S. taxes, based on $215 billion in earnings that Apple holds in offshore subsidiaries.

We can only dream about what $66 billion might fund.

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