Maybe you heard: Apple owes up to €13 billion in back taxes, plus interest, to Ireland. And maybe you also heard that Ireland doesn’t want Apple to pay. So what’s up?
First a caveat: I don’t have any particular expertise in European Union law, so I’m going off of news reports[fn1] and the European Commission’s press release. (As of when I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon, the actual opinion isn’t up on the EC’s website. I’ll add a link when it’s available.)
In short: members of the EU can establish their own tax systems; the EU doesn’t have any authority over those systems. Over the last two years or so, though, the EC has been looking at special tax deals member countries have been giving to companies; where it finds that a country has provided special tax treatment to one particular company (and not granted similar tax treatment to other companies), it has held that the country provided “state aid” to that company. The EU treaty prohibits state aid and, when a member country provides such aid, the EC can require that country to recover the taxes it should have collected from the company in question. Though this Apple ruling is the most recent, last year the EC determined that Luxembourg and the Netherlands had used tax rulings to provide state aid to Fiat and Starbucks, and it is still looking into tax rulings provided by Luxembourg to McDonald’s and Amazon. Continue reading “Ireland, Apple, and State Aid”