European Commissioner: Strange for Ireland not to take the €13bn Apple payment

Pierre Moscovici: Blacklist of EU tax havens being considered.

The European commissioner for tax affairs has hit out at Ireland’s “strange” decision to appeal the €13bn Apple tax ruling as he confirmed Brussels is considering establishing a “European black list of tax havens” to tackle tax evasion within their borders.

Pierre Moscovici also insisted Brussels knows it is right on the €13bn ruling, during a meeting of EU member states’ finance ministers in the Slovakian capital Bratislava yesterday.

Speaking to reporters as the two-day meeting began, the former French finance minister stressed the EU is not trying to attack Ireland’s corporation tax system and is simply seeking to fight “tax evasion” in the bloc.

However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan reiterated Ireland has no intention of backing down on its plans to appeal the ruling, saying he expects other smaller states to support the case.

“It is a strange decision, in a way, to say ‘I don’t want your €13bn’ when you could have some social programmes or economic programmes in a country that has been damaged by a crisis — but that’s their own will,” Mr Moscovici said.

“We will defend our point of view. We know that we are right. It’s not arbitrary.

“We are not a politicised commission, we are a political commission with a political will, and this political will is clearly to fight tax evasion, tax fraud and aggressive tax planning.

“We are going to go further, with proposals such as a relaunch of the CCCTB [common consolidated corporate tax base] and the establishment of a European black-list of tax havens.”

Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan

The remarks — and similar comments yesterday from the commissioner at the centre of the Apple ruling, Margrethe Vestager, that EU member states’ tax systems must benefit everyone not just large firms — continued to place pressure on Ireland over the issue.

However,Mr Noonan yesteday said he has no intention of backing down on plans to appeal the case.

He expects smaller nations such as Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium to back Ireland’s claim due to the similarity of rulings involving the other countries.

“Because it’s a judicial process, we are not trying to drum up support, but there have been cases and rulings in the last 12 months or so in respect of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland,” he said.

“They have all appealed and Ireland has associated itself with the appeals and are legally represented at the appeals. I would assume something similar will happen in this case.”

While the Apple tax issue is not officially on the agenda this weekend , it is expected to be discussed in depth during side discussions.

Today, the meeting will also discuss plans from Brussels to seek new powers to force multinationals to provide more transparency on their tax bills.

The commission is also pushing for “further cross-border harmonisation of tax rules” across the EU bloc, an issue which could potentially impact on Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax rate, and to train tax officials in how to tackle the changing international nature of tax transparency.

It will also include contributions from independent group, the OECD, on the tax situation in the bloc.

Asked for clarity on the issue yesterday, Mr Moscovici said the EU is not targeting any particular nation and is keen to respect different countries’ views.

However, he said Brussels feels there is a need for “common rules” to address tax avoidance in the bloc and that outstanding controversies surrounding multi-nationals must be addressed.

“We are an open economy. We need to have free trade,” he said. :We need to have investment from abroad, but we also need to have common rules. The message must be heard — no more tax evasion, no more tax fraud, no more tax avoidance, no more aggressive tax planning.”

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