To the European Union, a $14.5 billion bill for back taxes it handed Apple Tuesday is a valid request for recompense. To Apple CEO Tim Cook, it's "maddening" and nothing more than "total political crap"—and Washington seems inclined to agree, with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noting Wednesday the European Commission's ruling was an attempt to tax income that "ought to be taxed in the United States," per Reuters and RTE. Cook—who told RTE that Apple has "several billion dollars" put aside to pay US tax liabilities, per the AP—refutes his company getting any "sweetheart" deals and specifically takes issue with the effective tax rate of 0.005% it supposedly paid on European profits in 2014, saying Apple forked over "a worldwide income tax rate" of 26.1% that year. But European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says what's crap is Cook's assessment, noting the info that resulted in the ruling came directly from Apple-provided numbers and other openly available data.
Now European countries are stepping up with their own opinions, and it seems they're not Team Apple. The French finance minister said in a presser that "it's normal to make Apple pay normal taxes," joining Germany in supporting the ruling. Who's really in a pickle at the moment: Ireland, which is struggling to decide whether to take the huge tax payment (Reuters notes it would pay for the country's health system for a full year) or turn it down so it can keep cajoling others into its low-tax fold, therefore creating jobs. Some regular Irish citizens say to just go for the cash. "They don't care about the normal people," one woman who cares for her ailing elderly mother tells Reuters. "The money should be spent on the old-age pensioners who worked all their lives and are struggling to survive." (Apple and the US only have themselves to blame, says a New York Times editorial.)