Major international companies should be taxed the same as the "little guy", the co-founder of iPhone and iPad manufacturer Apple - which has faced heavy criticism over its own tax affairs - said today.
Steve Wozniak said that in his view companies should be taxed on all of their revenues, under a system similar to income tax, to level the playing field. And he reportedly said that criticism of Apple’s tax system, which exploits Irish subsidiaries to avoid liability to the British taxman, was "extremely warranted".
"People are not taxed on profit, they are taxed on income, corporations should be taxed the same as people in my mind, that is how it should be, that would make things fair and right,” he said, during a visit to Northern Ireland today.
Mr Wozniak, who left Apple in the late-80s but remains a shareholder, added: “That means corporations pay taxes on all of their revenues or people only pay it on a tiny amount called profit and until we rectify that the whole problem is just with us forever.
“That is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and I am always for the individual being much more important than their training, same reason I created the Apple computer at the start, it was to empower the little guy.”
Apple, which made more than £100bn in 2012, has been criticised for seeking to legally minimise the amount of tax it pays. Other firms like Google, Starbucks and Amazon have also faced serious criticism with some being hauled before MPs to explain themselves.
After it came under pressure, Starbucks made a voluntary contribution to HMRC. But the Government has been unable to force others to pay more and the tax system which allows them to avoid paying large sums has been called inadequate by MPs.
Mr Wozniak said that in his view, large corporations “with the power and the money… make sure that politicians can create the things that will enhance the corporations”.
He said: “For a corporation there is no such thing as personal ethics, you will do anything, any scheme you can to maximise your profits, so they are just obeying the system, the big companies are all obeying the system of taxation, they are all doing the same things and you can say the system is bad to allow these things that people do not consider ethical.”
And he asked why businessmen were able to write off expenses against income but many others were not. “If normal people did they would have more savings,” he said.
“I thought, that is really not fair, that businesses are not treated the same as people, this goes a lot deeper. They are treated by the law as people, treated by the taxes as people, treated by other situations, social entities as people, but with taxes a corporation only pays a tax on profits.
“A person would say, ‘my life is my business and I have to pay for my home, pay for my clothes, my food and what is left over if I make a little money some year and put it in savings, that is my profit’, but people are not taxed on profit, they are taxed on income.” And he told Sky News that systems to brazenly avoid tax were “ethically wrong”.