Apple successfully appeals EU’s €13bn tax bill

Major victory for American tech giant but Commission could appeal

Apple scored a major victory on Wednesday, when the European Union’s General Court overturned a ruling that had ordered the American tech giant to pay €13bn ($14.8bn, £11.7bn) in back taxes to the Irish government.

The successful appeal is a blow to Margrethe Vestager. In 2016, as the EU’s antitrust chief, the Dane had condemned the agreement between Apple and Ireland as a “sweetheart deal” tantamount to “illegal state aid.”

Both Apple and the Irish government rejected these claims. CEO Tim Cook described the initial ruling as “total political crap.”

Referring to EU competition rules, the judges ruled that the EU Commission “did not succeed in showing to the requisite legal standard that there was an advantage for the purposes of Article 107 (1).”

Reacting to the decision, the Irish Department of Finance stated: “Ireland has always been clear that there was no special treatment provided to Apple. The correct amount of Irish tax was charged, taxation in line with normal Irish taxation rules.”

Apple similarly said it was pleased with the ruling.

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Vestager, who has risen to executive vice-president of the European Commission, said that the Commission would “carefully study the judgment and reflect on possible next steps,” maintaining: “The Commission stands fully behind the objective that all companies should pay their fair share of tax. If Member States give certain multinational companies tax advantages not available to their rivals, this harms fair competition in the EU.”

Vestager is officially tasked with creating “a Europe fit for the Digital Age.” It is feared that this recent ruling will weaken the EU’s influence and ability to counteract other tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon.

The Commission has two months and ten days to appeal the ruling with the European Court of Justice, the bloc’s supreme court.

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