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Ireland's appeal over €14.3 billion Apple tax bill to get under way in Europe today

The government has already spent over €7 million in legal fees and other costs preparing the case.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Artur Widak/SIPA USA/PA Images

APPLE AND THE Irish State will begin its appeal in European Courts today over the €14.3 billion Europe has said is owed by the tech giant to the country. 

In a landmark 2016 ruling, the European Commission found that Ireland gave multinational tech giant Apple illegal state aid worth up to €13 billion over a decade.

The State is appealing the decision as it denies there was any such sweetheart deal in place, and said the company wasn’t treated any differently.

Ireland is set to argue that the European Commission “made manifest errors of assessment in misunderstanding Irish law and the relevant facts”.

In all, Ireland has nine legal arguments on which it says the European Commission’s ruling was wrong.

Despite indicating it would appeal the case in November 2016, Ireland was obliged to collect the funds from Apple anyway. It is holding them in escrow until the appeal process is concluded. 

This approximately €13.1 billion in State aid and €1.2 billion in interest was deposited in the escrow account by Apple over the second and third quarters of last year.

The EU Commission had previously complained that Ireland was “taking too long” to recover the funds from Apple.

In April this year, in response to a parliamentary question, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the cost of appealing the case to that point had been €7.1 million, through legal fees, consultancy fees and other costs.

“This case has involved a significant degree of legal and technical complexity and additional expertise has been engaged where required,” he said. 

The two days of hearings that get under way today will take place at the EU’s lower General Court, where judges will give their judgement no earlier than 2020.

Any appeal would then go the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final decision that could land as late as 2021.

Apple is also fiercely contesting the European Commission’s finding.

“The European Commission has tried to rewrite Apple’s history in Europe, to ignore Ireland’s tax laws and, in doing so, to disrupt the international tax system,” Tim Cook said in an open letter in 2016.

The group insists that it is in the United States, where the company invests in research and development and thus creates wealth, that it must pay taxes on the revenue in question.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy, AFP

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Sean Murray

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