European Commission confirms Apple tax ruling appeal

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Digital Desk staff

The European Commission (EC) has confirmed that it will appeal the Apple tax ruling of July 2020 which saw the EU General Court throw out the Commission's ruling that Ireland must collect €13 billion in unpaid taxes from the tech giant.

The appeal of the General Court's judgment on the case could take a number of years and will go before the European Court of Justice, which is the highest court of the EU. Its ruling will be final.

The judgement in July had annulled the Commission's decision of August 2016 finding that Ireland granted illegal State aid to Apple through "selective tax breaks" and saw Ireland and Apple win their appeal.

Making sure that all companies, big and small, pay their fair share of tax remains a top priority for the Commission... If Member States give certain multinational companies tax advantages not available to their rivals, this harms fair competition in the European Union.

In a statement issued today, EC Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: "The General Court judgment raises important legal issues that are of relevance to the Commission in its application of State aid rules to tax planning cases.

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"The Commission also respectfully considers that in its judgment the General Court has made a number of errors of law. For this reason, the Commission is bringing this matter before the European Court of Justice.

"Making sure that all companies, big and small, pay their fair share of tax remains a top priority for the Commission. The General Court has repeatedly confirmed the principle that, while Member States have competence in determining their taxation laws taxation, they must do so in respect of EU law, including State aid rules.

"If Member States give certain multinational companies tax advantages not available to their rivals, this harms fair competition in the European Union in breach of State aid rules.

We have to continue to use all tools at our disposal to ensure companies pay their fair share of tax. Otherwise, the public purse and citizens are deprived of funds for much needed investments – the need for which is even more acute now to support Europe's economic recovery.

"We have to continue to use all tools at our disposal to ensure companies pay their fair share of tax. Otherwise, the public purse and citizens are deprived of funds for much needed investments – the need for which is even more acute now to support Europe's economic recovery.

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"We need to continue our efforts to put in place the right legislation to address loopholes and ensure transparency. So, there's more work ahead – including to make sure that all businesses, including digital ones, pay their fair share of tax where it is rightfully due.”

Government response

In response to the EC's decision to appeal the tax ruling, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said: "Ireland has not yet been served with formal notice of the appeal. When it is received, the Government will need to take some time to consider, in detail, the legal grounds set out in the appeal and to consult with the Government’s legal advisors, in responding to this appeal.”

A statement from the Department of Finance said that "the facts of the case, as established by the (General Court), demonstrate, as Ireland has always contended, that no State aid was given and that the Irish branches of the relevant Apple companies paid the full amount of tax due in accordance with the law. An appeal to the CJEU must be on a point, or points, of law. This appeal process could take up to two years to complete.

"Ireland has always been clear that the correct amount of Irish tax was paid and that Ireland provided no State aid to Apple. Ireland appealed the Commission Decision on that basis and the judgement from the General Court of the European Union vindicates this stance.

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"The funds in Escrow will only be released when there has been a final determination in the European Courts on the validity of the Commission’s Decision."

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