Most of €13bn unpaid Apple tax ‘is due to Ireland’

The majority of €13bn taxes owed by technology giant Apple is due to Ireland, the EU competition commissioner says. 

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager revealed Apple has not yet paid any of the money it owes, even though the Government has agreed to put the funds in a special holding account.

Facing questioning at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Ms Vestager denied claims that the EU is targeting Ireland’s tax system and says it is enforcing state aid rules and fairness.

Brussels argues Ireland did not collect enough tax due from Apple over a 10-year period and that the company’s tax burden was reduced in what was an alleged breach of EU state aid rules. The ruling against Ireland, originally made in August last, threw the Government into disarray and it was forced to quickly reject the decision and defend its ongoing appeal of the ruling.

Ms Vestager told the committee yesterday that EU state aid rules have been in existence for decades. However, multinational companies are “pushing boundaries” now.

The EU investigation into Apple’s dealings began in 2013 following a US senate hearing where the company confirmed it had tax incentive arrangements here. The competition commission has examined tax arrangements for 19 companies here. However, no other cases remain open, Ms Vestager said.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said there is a “suspicion” that the state aid rule argument is being used as a ‘veil’ to undermine Ireland’s corporation tax system. The 12.5% rate for businesses here is the envy of other capitals and has attracted firms here for years.

Mr McGrath claimed the EU has failed to adequately explain how Apple got superior tax treatment. “The evidence is not seen,” he said. However, the commissioner said the Apple ruling by Revenue is particular and unique to that company.

She told Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty that the “large, large majority” of the unpaid taxes are owed to Ireland, as opposed to other states. The EU wants to restore a “level playing field” and have those taxes recovered, she said. Up to 1,000 tax rulings or arrangements across member states had been examined, she said.

It has also emerged that the deadline has passed for Apple to put the €13bn in a special escrow holding account. It is up to Revenue to decide exact amounts due. Ms Vestager said the Irish Government is still working on the case.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said yesterday the Apple tax case will take four or five years to resolve.

Despite the EU asking Ireland to clarify the amount of unpaid tax, Mr Noonan said this was “a request to calculate the figure” and that the account details are still being worked out.

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