The European Commission's ruling that Apple should pay Ireland billions of dollars in back taxes was neither punitive nor unfair, one of the world's best-known economists told CNBC on Thursday.
Joseph Stiglitz said the European Commission (the European Union's executive arm) was right to conclude Ireland had granted Apple undue tax benefits. This is illegal under European rules and led the commission to order the Irish government to recover up to 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) — plus interest — from Apple on Tuesday.
The commission's ruling was a "fair warning" that he supported, Stiglitz told CNBC.
"The fundamental point here is Apple unambiguously was trying to avoid taxes and it was doing it in a dishonest way, with complicity from the Irish government, pretending that the money, the profits, the billions of profits it was making, were really being originated in some Irish company that was registered in cyberspace and therefore did not have to pay any taxes. And anybody looking at that says that is a ruse, that is an attempt at tax avoidance, tax evasion, whatever you want to call it," the 73-year-old U.S. economist said.