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Ireland is expected to get 'large majority' of Apple's €13 billion unpaid tax bill

Margrethe Vestager added the deadline for Apple to deposit money into an escrow account has passed.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager will address TDs today.
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager will address TDs today.
Image: Thierry Monasse AP/Press Association Images

Updated, 5.21pm

THE EU’S COMPETITION commissioner has confirmed the “large majority” of the €13 billion in illegal state aid Apple allegedly received from Ireland is expected to go to the exchequer.

It also said that the European Commission did not exceed its powers and interfere in Irish sovereign affairs when it ordered the State to collect billions of euro in taxes from tech giant Apple.

In December, the government accused the Commission of misunderstanding the “relevant facts and Irish law” in this case, and said that Ireland’s dealings with Apple did not constitute State aid.

Speaking on RTÉ News, Margrethe Vestager gave a “very strong no” when the claim was put to her that the commission had exceeded its powers, adding “we are not a tax authority”.

She is due to appear before the Oireachtas Finance Committee later today.

Last August, the government appeared to be taken by surprise when the EU Commission found that Ireland had granted Apple tax benefits in the region of €13 billion, which constituted illegal state aid under EU rules.

Both the Irish government and Apple have appealed the EU’s ruling, with any tax to be paid by Apple in relation to this case unlikely to reach the Irish exchequer for several years.

It is understood that the money would be paid into an escrow account pending that appeal. Vestager said that the deadline for Apple to put a sum of money into this account has already passed.

As for the actual sum to be put in escrow, Vestager said that it was up to Irish authorities to “do the fine calculations because they have all the numbers in every detail and it’s up to them to do it”.

“State aid control”

In terms of the Commission’s ruling, she rejected claims that they had overstepped their authority in this matter and were not interfering in Irish sovereign affairs.

She said: “What we do is state aid control, and that has been done by the Commission for, I think now six decades in order to make sure that we have a level playing field so that you compete on the quality of your products, the prices that you can show your customers, the service you attach to it, that’s what we do.”

It recently emerged that two revenue rulings are at the heart of the EU’s investigation into Apple’s tax affairs – and it has now been seen that Irish officials issued more than 300 tax rulings to other companies in one three-year period.

While Vestager did not say that other investigations into Irish tax affairs would be launched, she said the commission “feels that there is a need to do a follow up just to make sure”.

She added: “But I don’t know what will happen in the future, because if the analysis shows that there are reasons to be concerned then maybe my successor will find that it’s necessary to do something about it, that is why it’s up to the member states to bring order in their own house, and that goes for every member state.”

Vestager also rejected the idea that the ruling would negatively impact Irish public opinion ahead of the Brexit negotiations.

“The important thing here is to see that there is no hostility on our side,” she said. “Even if we had emotions, the [European] Court [Of Justice] would hear nothing of it.”

Vestager will appear before the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach joint committee today at 12.30pm with EU state aid investigations into tax rulings on the agenda.

With reporting from Fora.ie.

Read: Two tax rulings started the €13bn Apple row. Ireland has issued hundreds more

Read: ‘The Commission has exceeded its powers’: Government sets out 8 ways it will fight Apple ruling

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Sean Murray

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