EU Restarts Apple Tax Case Before EU’s Top Court

Apple Store in Mumbai. Image credit: Apple

European Commission argues before Court of Justice of the European Union that lower decision to discard 13bn euro Apple tax case was ‘flawed’

The European Commision on Tuesday relaunched its bid to force Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($14.3bn, £11bn) in back taxes before the EU’s highest court, arguing a lower court’s decision on the matter should be overturned due to legal errors.

The Commission is seeking to overturn a decision by the EU’s General Court, which in 2020 said the Commission had not met the legal standard to show that Apple had been given an unfair advantage.

The Commission said soon afterward it would appeal, with competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager saying at the time she consdiered “that in its judgement the General Court has made a number of errors of law”.

In 2016, following a two-year investigation, the regulator found that Ireland had artificially reduced Apple’s tax burden for more than twenty years and that the US tech giant should repay the shortfall.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission
Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

Tax breaks

Commission lawyer Paul-John Loewenthal told the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Tuesday that the case would have a far-reaching influence on whether EU countries could create special economic deals for corporate partners.

“Its outcome will determine whether member states may continue to grant multinational substantial tax breaks in return for jobs and investments,” Loewenthal said, according to a Reuters report.

He said the General Court’s decision was “legally flawed” and should be revisited.

Apple lawyer Daniel Beard told the court the company “has paid the taxes that were due under the Irish tax code”.

‘Paid the taxes’

Beard said the profits the Commission wanted taxed under Irish law were “in fact subject to the US tax regime” and that Apple was paying about 20bn euros in tax in the US on those profits.

CJEU advocate general Giovanni Pitruzzella is scheduled to give a non-binding opinion in the Apple case on 9 November with the court’s ruling to follow.

The case is C-465/20 P Commission v Ireland and Others.

The Commission has seen several losses in its tax campaign in recent months in challenges by Stellantis, Amazon and Starbucks, but has forced tax regime changes in Ireland the Netherlands and Luxembourg that it said were in the interests of fairness.