Apple’s new iOS center in Naples raises eyebrows

Source: USA Today

Apple has announced the founding of its first European center for the development of iOS software in the southern city of Naples, a move seen in Italy as a new front in its war against a wave of European tax probes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook personally announced the plan Friday in Rome, saying the company was “thrilled to be helping the next generation of entrepreneurs in Italy get the skills they need for success.”

Cook came to Italy from Brussels, where he lobbied European officials as the prospect of a $19 billion tax bill loomed. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is looking into the legality of Apple paying most of its European taxes in Ireland, a low-tax jurisdiction.

Just three weeks before Cook landed in Rome, Apple settled a tax investigation in Italy in terms Italian media described as favorable to the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant: The Italian government said Apple underpaid taxes for the 2008-2013 period by $958 million and Apple agreed to pay $346 million.

A few weeks before the announcement of the Italian settlement, Cook dismissed the investigation as “political crap” and promised “Apple pays every tax dollar” it owes. The settlement did not come up during Cook’s brief stop in Rome, but Italian analysts see the announcement of the Naples development center as related.

“What is most interesting about the announcement is that there was no warning, it just suddenly appeared like a gift under the Christmas tree,” Jeev Trika, director of TopSEOs, a leading iOS and SEO information site, said in an interview.

“I would be surprised if this was not part of Apple’s public relations efforts to illustrate that it plays a positive role in Europe, a role that goes beyond what the company pays in taxes,” Trikka said.

Apple’s press release announcing the deal stressed that theme. It noted that while Apple directly employs 22,000 workers in Europe, it indirectly employs more than 1 million more, such as software developers. All told, the release said, 1.4 million European jobs depend on Apple products.

The center in Naples, when it opens, will broaden those numbers even further: Apple said 600 students a year will be trained at the center.