U.S. Tech Firms See Green As They Set Up Shop In Low-Tax Ireland : Parallels Google, Apple and other industry leaders have global headquarters in Ireland. But the U.S. Congress and others aren't happy, and the Irish are reconsidering some of these business-friendly tax laws.
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U.S. Tech Firms See Green As They Set Up Shop In Low-Tax Ireland

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U.S. Tech Firms See Green As They Set Up Shop In Low-Tax Ireland

U.S. Tech Firms See Green As They Set Up Shop In Low-Tax Ireland

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

If you list the top 10 U.S. companies that were born on the Internet - think names like Google, Amazon, eBay - each of them has overseas corporate headquarters in Ireland. The American tech sector is huge in Ireland, and it's growing really fast. Today and tomorrow, we'll hear about the impact of the U.S. tech presence in Ireland and why some members of Congress are furious about it. Here's NPR's Irish Shapiro - oh, I mean, Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: This is Cork, an Irish city of 120,000 people. It's also home to Apple's only global corporate headquarters outside of the United States. That headquarters employs 4,000 people. It's sitting right in front of us now, gleaming in metal and glass, looking almost like an Apple Store against the gray, Irish sky.

SHANE GALWAY: It impacts a lot because, like, this road here to the left was built specifically for Apple.

SHAPIRO: Apple didn't have anybody available to talk with us, so we asked the neighbors what life is like in the shadow of the giant. Shane Galway is an electrician who works across the street.

GALWAY: The taoiseach calls one day and says...

SHAPIRO: The taoiseach, that's the head of the Irish government?

GALWAY: Yes.

SHAPIRO: He came by here?

GALWAY: Yes, and Tim Cook was in another day.

SHAPIRO: The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, was here?

GALWAY: Yes, he pulled up a helicopter.

SHAPIRO: A helicopter, really?

GALWAY: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) So this is a very big deal.

GALWAY: Yeah, yeah.

SHAPIRO: And the impact on the economy stretches far beyond the 4,000 people here who work for Apple. Galway used to do electrical work at Apple headquarters, even though the company never employed him directly. Christina Brannagh is an English teacher out at a bar with her friends.

CHRISTINA BRANNAGH: Yeah, a lot of my students actually work for Apple. We even it teach English at Apple because a lot of them don't have English as a first language.

SHAPIRO: At a real estate office called Trading Places, Gina O'Donovan always knows when the U.S. tech workers walk in the door.

O'DONOVAN: Because they're usually quite trendy and very, very nice and polite, whereas the Irish are a bit more - I suppose they're not as polite, you know.

SHAPIRO: She says the city has transformed. Home prices are up. There are more diverse restaurants, trendier bars. Speaking of bars, I asked her whether the tech arrivals stand out in any other ways.

O'DONOVAN: And they try to adjust to the drinking, but it doesn't always work very well for them, I'm afraid.

(LAUGHTER)

O'DONOVAN: We're more hardened to that.

SHAPIRO: So that's a snapshot of the impact Apple has on Cork. But remember every major U.S. tech company has corporate headquarters in Ireland, and lots of smaller ones do, too. These days you can find company towns all over Ireland where the companies are American tech firms. Barry O'Dowd is with IDA Ireland, a government agency that works to recruit U.S. companies.

O'DOWD: In addition to Apple, we've got Dell in Limerick, two-and-a-half thousand people in Limerick. And in Dublin here itself, the big employers will be IBM with a couple thousand people as well. And Google themselves now would have approximately 3,000 people in Ireland.

SHAPIRO: When new companies try to decide which country to set up shop in, they look at where their elders went and follow suit.

STEPHEN MCINTYRE: My name is Stephen McIntyre. I am managing director of Twitter here in Ireland, where we have our European HQ.

SHAPIRO: Twitter arrived in Dublin about three years ago. It's now the company's largest office outside the U.S. with more than 200 staff.

MCINTYRE: We've doubled in the last year, and we're expecting that growth to continue over the forthcoming years.

SHAPIRO: So what attracts all these tech geniuses to Ireland? It's not the weather. If you ask people from the tech world, like McIntyre at Twitter, they'll tell you it's a variety of things.

MCINTYRE: The first is the experience of comparable companies in our industry. The second is the availability of skilled talents, and the third is a business friendly environment.

SHAPIRO: But if you asked a tax expert, like Bob Goulder of Tax Analysts, why these U.S. companies are in Ireland you get a much shorter answer.

BOB GOULDER: Because they don't have to pay a whole lot of tax.

SHAPIRO: Members of Congress are furious at what they call tax dodgers. The European Union is investigating, and American tech companies insist they are doing nothing wrong. That story tomorrow. Ari Shapiro, NPR News.

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