The tech business week: EC tax inquiry into Apple, €5m e-commerce voucher scheme for small businesses

16 Jun 2014

EC launches formal tax inquiry into Apple's Irish operation

A digest of the top business technology news stories from the past week, beginning with the news the European Commission has launched a formal tax inquiry into Apple’s Irish operation.

EC launches formal tax inquiry into Apple’s Irish operation

After a year of investigation, the European Commission (EC) responsible for competition has formally requested inquiries into the Irish Government’s relationship with Apple and its tax rate.

Led under the EC’s vice-president Joaquín Almunia, the investigation is trying to determine whether there was any special agreement made between the American multinational and the State that would allow the company to forgo paying the standard corporation tax rate of 12.5pc, with Almunia calling on Apple, as well as other multinationals included in the investigation, to “pay their fair share”.

Apple has declared it has not broken any laws since it established its first office in Ireland in 1980.

Last year, some of the US’ biggest politicians were outraged after a senate report alleged Apple only paid 2pc corporate tax with respect to its operations in Ireland, home of its international headquarters, and yet was registered to pay tax in another country where the higher tax rate doesn’t apply.

The EC has said the Irish Government has been entirely co-operative with the investigation but is worried the Government has shown worrying levels of ‘discretion’ within its tax administration.

Govt rolls out €5m e-commerce voucher scheme for small businesses

The Irish Government is rolling out a Trading Online Voucher Scheme to enable small companies to embrace the digital economy. The scheme has the voluntary support of companies such as Google, Realex, PayPal, An Post and Facebook.

The Trading Online Voucher scheme is designed to help the small companies access the opportunities open to them through trading online. This will help companies right across Ireland to access new markets so they can grow and create more jobs.

Under the scheme, vouchers of up to €2,500 will be available to businesses who demonstrate that they have a credible plan for trading online.

Google reportedly buying stake in Virgin Galactic

Internet search giant Google is said to be in advanced talks to purchase a stake in the developing space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

According to Sky News, the deal has been in the works for the last number of months and will represent a two-pronged approach by Google and the space venture to mutually benefit both their intentions to expand their space projects.

It is understood the direct investment Google will be making in Virgin Galactic will be relatively small, at about US$30m (€22m), which will also see the two companies collaborate on sharing their developed technologies.

Quoting a Google source, Sky News reported the stake could put Sir Richard’ Branson’s Virgin Galactic at a valuation of €1.5bn, equating to a 1.5pc shares holding.

Chips are up as Intel predicts Q2 revenues of US$13.7bn

Stronger than expected demand for business PCs has led Intel to predict second-quarter revenues of US$13.7bn, up from the original forecast of US$13bn.

Intel is also expecting gross margin to increase by 1pc to 64pc, once again driven by higher PC unit volumes.

Intel said R&D and mergers and acquisitions spending will be around US$4.9bn, around US$100m higher than originally predicted. R&D and mergers and acquisition spending for the full year is expected to be US$19.2bn.

Intel is scheduled to release its second-quarter earnings on 15 July.

Twitter COO Ali Rowghani to fly the nest

As part of a management shake-up at social media giant Twitter, the company’s chief operating officer Ali Rowghani has announced via a tweet that he is stepping down from the role.

Rowghani had tweeted: “Goodbye Twitter. It’s been an amazing ride, and I will cherish the memories.”

In a regulatory filing, Twitter confirmed Rowghani’s departure, but contrary to Rowghani’s tweet said he will remain as a strategic adviser to the CEO.

PayPal’s mobile payments chief joins Facebook

E-payments giant PayPal’s head of mobile payments, David Marcus, has decided to try his hand at social media and has agreed to join Facebook as its vice-president, Messaging Products.

The decision to appoint Marcus is considered a sign Facebook wishes to improve its messaging service and, according to Facebook’s official statement, Marcus has a “track record of building great products and finding creative ways to turn them into great businesses”.

Marcus had been with PayPal since 2011.

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