Ireland: EU orders Apple to repay $14.5bn in Taxes

IRELAND: The European Union(EU) has demanded that US tech company Apple must repay a record 13bn euros ($14.5bn) in taxes after ruling that a special scheme to route profits through Ireland was illegal state aid.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, said “Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses over many years.” on Tuesday.

Apple’s “selective treatment” by the Irish government meant it paid an effective tax rate of only 1 percent on its European profits in 2003, which then fell to a bare 0.005 percent by 2014.

“The tax treatment in Ireland enabled Apple to avoid taxation on almost all profits generated by sales of Apple products in the entire EU single market,” Vestager said.

Brussels launched an inquiry into Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland in 2014, one of a series of anti-trust cases targeting major US corporations that have angered the US administration.

The European Commission accused Ireland of dodging international tax rules by letting Apple shelter profits worth tens of billions of dollars from tax collectors in return for maintaining jobs.

Apple and Ireland rejected the accusation, with the Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan calling the ruling “bizarre”, and a political exercise by the EU’s competition comission.

“As far as I am concerned there is no economic basis for this decision,” Noonan told state broadcaster RTE.

“It’s bizarre and its an exercise in politics by the Competition Commission,” he said.

Noonan also issued a statement saying he disagreed “profoundly with the Commission”, and would seek cabinet approval to  appeal the ruling.

“This is necessary to defend the integrity of our tax system; to provide tax certainty to business; and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into the sovereign member state competence of taxation,” he said.

“It is important that we send a strong message that Ireland remains an attractive and stable location of choice for long-term substantive investment.”

Ireland also said the disputed tax system used in the Apple case no longer applied and that the decision had no effect on Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate or on any other company with operations in the country.

Apple said in a statement it was confident of winning an appeal.

“The European Commission has launched an effort to rewrite Apple’s history in Europe, ignore Ireland’s tax laws and upend the international tax system in the process. The Commission’s case is not about how much Apple pays in taxes, it’s about which government collects the money.  It will have a profound and harmful effect

For Apple, whose earnings of $18bn last year were the biggest ever reported by a corporation, finding several billion dollars to repay Ireland should not be an insurmountable problem, Reuters news agency reported. The 13bn euros represents about 6 percent of the firm’s cash pile.