24th Apr 2019

EU to rule on Apple tax deals this year

  • EU Commissioner Vestager has not revealed a date yet for the decision on Apple (Photo: Ben Adamson)

The EU Commission is expected to rule by the end of the year on whether US firm Apple has benefitted from illegal tax deals in Europe, Ireland’s finance minister Michael Noonan said on Monday (9 November).

“We're expecting an adjudication on Apple maybe in the next few weeks, but certainly between now and Christmas,” he told reporters on his way into the meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

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"We don't have a date, but our expectation is it will be done this side of Christmas."

Apple is one of several multinational companies the EU is investigating to see whether their sweetheart deals gave them an illegal advantage over other companies.

EU antitrust regulators concluded two similar cases last month, ruling that Starbucks and Fiat benefited from illegal state aid in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and must repay tens of millions of euros to the respective national budgets.

The companies and the EU countries involved in the scheme disputed the EU executive’s findings.

If Apple’s Irish tax scheme is deemed illegal by the Commission, the US company could end up paying millions of euros also.

Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner in charge of antitrust inquiries said Monday in the European Parliament, she does not have a date yet for decisions on Apple or Amazon’s tax arrangement in Luxembourg.

She told lawmakers that last month’s decisions on Fiat and Starbucks sent a strong signal to national governments that they can’t use the tax system to hand out illegal state aid, however.

“This is the beginning of my work, not the end,” she said about the two concluded investigations.

“I will continue to open tax ruling cases if we have doubts that the rules are not followed as they should be,” the Danish commissioner added.

For his part, Noonan did not go into detail how Ireland will cope with the decision, saying only that the country will “deal with that when the announcement comes.”

Vestager's assured performance

It was an assured and even-handed performance from one of the most powerful officials in the business world.

Ireland on the defensive in Apple tax row

Ireland has come under fire for its low-tax regime amid US revelations that Apple and other large corporations are using EU-based subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes.

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