Apple CEO Says EU Tax Ruling 'Total Political Crap'

The European Union's imposition of a 13 billion euro ($14.5 billion) back tax bill on Apple is "total political crap", Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a newspaper interview on Thursday, and anti-U.S. bias may have played a role.

But in a separate radio interview he vowed to boost Apple's tax payments by repatriating billions of dollars in global profits to the United States next year.

On Tuesday, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager questioned how anyone might think an arrangement that allowed Apple to pay a tax rate of 0.005 percent, as Apple's main Irish unit did in 2014, was fair.

"They just picked a number from I don't know where," Cook told the Irish Independent, estimating Apple's average annual tax on its profits at 26 percent.

Cook said he would fight closely with Ireland to overturn the ruling, which he said had "no basis in law or in fact". It is by far the largest anti-competition penalty imposed on a company by the EU.

"No one did anything wrong here and we need to stand together. Ireland is being picked on and this is unacceptable," Cook told the newspaper, adding that bias against multinationals from the United States may have been a factor in the decision to impose the bill.

"I think that Apple was targeted here," he said. "And I think that (anti-U.S. sentiment) is one reason why we could have been targeted."

"I think it's a desire to reallocate taxes that should be paid in the US to the EU," he added.

In the interview with Irish state broadcaster RTE, Cook said part of the company's 2014 tax bill would be paid next year when the company repatriates billions of dollars of offshore profits to the United States.

Apple was found to be holding over $181 billion in accumulated profits offshore, more than any U.S. company, in a study published last year by two left-leaning nonprofit groups, a policy critics say is designed to avoid paying U.S taxes.

"We paid 400 (million dollars) to Ireland (in 2014), we paid 400 to the U.S. and we provisioned several billion dollars for the U.S. for payment as soon as we repatriate it and right now I forecast that repatriation to occur next year," Cook told RTE.

Cook told RTE he was very confident his appeal would succeed and said Apple was committed to expanding its operations in Ireland despite the ruling.

($1 = 0.8969 euros)

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Susan Thomas)