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Apple tax: Irish government agrees to appeal €13bn ruling by EU Commission

Published 02/09/2016

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook

The Irish government has agreed to appeal the EU Commission’s ruling that Apple owes Ireland €13bn in back-taxes.

After a short meeting on Friday, members of the Independent Alliance and Independent TD Katherine Zappone gave their approval for the appeal.

It followed 48 hours of uncertainty that involved a series of crisis meetings involving the Attorney General and other independent experts. reports that Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan brought a memo to Friday’s Cabinet meeting on “tax justice”.

Crucially Independent Alliance junior minister John Halligan who said his “personal” view would be that Apple should pay the money, said he does not want the Government to collapse over the issue.

He is now expected to also back the appeal.

The Cabinet has agreed to:

  • A review of our corporation tax code by an independent expert
  • Transpose EU Directives by the end of the year to ensure exchange of information on taxation and greater co-operation between countries
  • Take a lead on Tax Justice by hosting a high level meeting before the end of the year to include international speakers, Industry, campaigners and governments
  • Greater openness on tax rulings with time limits of 5 years and greater oversight for the Public Accounts Committee

Despite the agreement, Ms Zappone said this afternoon that the arrangement between Apple and the Revenue Commissioners was "unethical" and said the European Commission "acted in the public interest by bringing this issue into the public, media and political spotlight".

"At the outset let me clear there are aspects of the European Commission decision I agree with as it corresponds with my well established views on the area of fair and just taxation which have been articulated many times and are a matter of public record," she said.

In respect of the appeal, Ms Zappone said she has agreed to back after significant consideration.

She said it would be an opportunity for tax justice for those who have "been denied money as a result of Ireland’s past actions".

"Countries who feel robbed or cheated can use this appeal to make their case.

"The appeal is an open forum which will bring legal certainty as to whether the European Commission acted within its mandate," she said.

Ms Zappone added that the €13bn figure is not accurate in her view and there would be "no such windfall for Ireland".

"In fact the best way to secure any monies for Ireland is through the appeal – as to do otherwise will only end in other prolonged court actions and delay," she said.

Earlier, Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan  has strongly backed Brussels in its €13bn tax ruling against Apple.

The former Fine Gael Cabinet minister and key ally of Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed he supported the finding of illegal state aid being granted to Apple.

The development came as a furious behind-the-scenes row broke out between the Department of Finance and the Taoiseach’s office over who is to blame for the Government’s ham-fisted response to the crisis.

In his first public comment on the issue, Mr Hogan said all 28 Commission members supported the decision.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Hogan said it was a collegiate decision made by the Commission.

“It was approved by all 28 Commissioners. It will be appealed by the company involved, and perhaps by the Irish Government, if that is what they decide. Given these pending EU court proceedings I can make no further comment at this time,” he said.

Mr Hogan’s appointment to the biggest job in the Taoiseach’s gift was seen as a reward for taking unpopular decisions around water charges.

Today, Finance Minister Michael Noonan will present a memo to Cabinet aimed at addressing Independent ministers’ concerns around appealing the decision and supporting a drive for tax fairness and transparency.

On Thursday Apple chief executive Tim Cook told the Irish Independent that the EU's order was motivated in part by anti-US bias.

But European Commission's Competition chief Margrethe Vestager hit back immediately, saying she will not accept the accusation.

"No, I will not. This is a decision based on the facts of the case," she said.

She said the calculations of the back-tax owed by Apple to Ireland were based on data provided by the company itself and facts presented during hearings on Apple tax issues in the United States.

Ms Vestager said she would meet US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in Washington in September to further discuss the case.

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