The Department of Finance was wrong to claim the European Commission misinterpreted Irish tax laws over the Apple tax scandal, a minister has conceded yesterday.
In its final report, the commission found that Apple received “selective treatment” from Revenue which amounted to illegal State aid, as other companies did not benefit from similar tax rulings.
The Government could not put forward “any justification at all” for its actions, the commission insisted.
The Department of Finance claimed Ireland did nothing wrong and that the commission had been incorrect in its assessment of the country being a tax haven that cuts deals with multinationals.
“Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple,” said the department in a statement. “The full amount of tax was paid in this case and no State aid was provided. Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers.”
However, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone contradicted her Government colleagues by saying she stood by her view that tax laws must be reformed. She said the Department of Finance was “wrong” to send out the statement.
“I think it was very clear at the time of the Apple judgement that I was at odds with some of my cabinet colleagues, Fine Gael government colleagues,” said Ms Zappone. “I think that what happened was unethical.
“I think everyone should pay their fair share of tax, including multi-national corporations, though I do believe it’s important we appeal.
“I hope many of the countries that didn’t get their fair share of [Apple] tax in the past have an opportunity to go into a courtroom and put that argument in an open-ended way.”
Meanwhile, Oxfam Ireland has said the ruling “gives a rare glimpse into the secretive world of corporate tax deals”.
The charity last week said Ireland was the sixth worst tax haven in the world.
Calling for transparency on Irish deals, Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken said: “The billions shaved off Apple’s tax bill are not an abstract sum. Tax dodging has a real human cost. When a company gets away without paying the tax it should, that has a direct impact on the lives of people around the world.”
Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath said Ireland must continue with its appeal through to protect Ireland’s tax sovereignty.
“The fundamental issue remains the right of individual EU member states to retain the right to set their own corporation tax policy,” he said. “The central issue at stake is how the EU Commission has failed to understand Irish tax law, and worryingly how it also failed to understand European tax laws.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said that appealing the ruling “is weak, shows poor political judgement, and likely to fail”.
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