Ireland's appeal in Apple case 'could take four years'

Ireland’s appeal on the €13bn Apple case could take four years, according to Finance Minister Michael Noonan and he also believes the firm pays insufficient tax around the globe, writes Juno McEnroe.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Mr Noonan said he believed the EU Apple case amounted to “political input” and undermined the certainty about business taxes here.

Committee senators and TDs quizzed the minister about why Ireland is appealing the EU case and what authorities knew here about “stateless companies” operating with little or no tax obligations.

Mr Noonan said the appeal could take four years. So far €1.8m has been spent on lawyers fees in the appeal but there is no idea what the final bill could be.

He told members there was “political input” in Europe into the Apple case but said this was because of the “mismatch” of tax rules between different jurisdictions, which is now being addressed.

He said he didn’t think the European Commission were “having a go” at Ireland by taking the case, nonetheless, he said, “I don’t think Apple worldwide are paying sufficient tax.”

However, the Apple ruling, released last August by Brussels, had undermined certainty here and “corporation tax offerings” here.

This would remain so until the case is decided as there will be “uncertainty” [for companies] about what their tax liabilities might be.

The case though had not affected investment here, he added.

Mr Noonan was repeatedly questioned by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about where the intellectual property rights of Apple existed or belonged.

The minister though refused to be drawn on this, saying it would form the “cornerstone” of Ireland’s appeal.

AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett argued that it had never been credible to let the profits go to an office that did not essentially exist and Irish people wanted to know why we were not taking the €13bn and instead giving millions of euro to lawyers to fight the tax payment.

Mr Noonan insisted Ireland had got the right amount of taxes due to it from Apple.

He insisted Brussels had “misused” its state aid powers by taking the Apple case against Ireland. “They [Apple] fully paid tax on profits generated in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, the head of Revenue Niall Cody has refused to say when Ireland became aware that Apple was operating a so-called ‘stateless company’, saying this was because of tax “confidentiality”.

The European Commission this week told the committee it began investigating Apple’s tax affairs here after the firm told a US senate hearing in 2013 it had arrangements with Ireland.

Mr Cody declined to comment for tax “confidentiality” reasons, but he did say: “The idea nobody knew in the US until the senate hearing is just not true.”

Mr Doherty accused Revenue of turning a “blind eye” on the situation for many years and also suggested officials may have known about any special tax arrangements as early as the 1990s.


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