EU's Top Court May Revise Apple's €14.3 Billion Tax Dispute Decision

Revisiting an earlier legal decision may mean that Apple has to pay billions in tax after all.

Apple may be liable for billions in tax after all.

In a significant development for Apple's ongoing €14.3 billion tax dispute with the European Union, Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella of the European Court of Justice, the EU's apex court, has proposed revising a pivotal 2020 decision.

Pitruzzella asserted that the earlier judgment, which negated the EU's demand for Apple to pay billions in back taxes to Ireland, was fraught with legal errors and demanded reevaluation. The General Court, the EU's secondary court, had earlier sided with Apple, stating that the EU failed to demonstrate Apple's receipt of illegal economic benefits in Ireland.

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU): The Two-Tiered Legal Pillar of the EU

The Origins Of Apple's Tax Controversy

The dispute traces back to a 2016 claim by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Vestager asserted that Apple's tax deals in Ireland effectively granted the technology giant an unfairly low tax rate, below 1%, thus breaching the bloc's state-aid rules. Following this, Ireland collected the contested amount from Apple in 2018, which has since been held in escrow pending legal proceedings.

Ireland, maintaining its position, stated that Apple received no preferential treatment. Finance Minister Michael McGrath emphasized Ireland's compliance with the correct tax payment and denial of state aid to Apple. The case highlights Ireland's strategy of using low corporate taxes to attract investments, a policy that has yielded significant economic benefits but is now under scrutiny as the country transitions to a higher tax rate under an OECD agreement.

Apple logo
Ireland's finance minister claimed that Apple had not received preferential treatment.

Broader Impact And Future Prospects

The outcome of the European Court of Justice's decision, expected next year, could have far-reaching consequences. A decision favoring the repayment to Ireland might trigger claims from other EU nations and the US for a portion of the funds. This case is part of a broader EU initiative targeting preferential tax deals offered by member states to multinational companies, an approach that has encountered several legal challenges.

Commentary On EU's Tax Policy Enforcement

Alec Burnside, a partner at Dechert law firm in Brussels, critiqued the EU's reliance on state aid laws for tax regulation, pointing out the inherent challenges and prolonged legal disputes that arise from such a strategy. This case illustrates the complexities of enforcing fair tax practices within the EU's legal framework, highlighting the need for consensus on tax legislation among member states.

Related: Apple's Ambitious AI Strategy: Chasing The Leaders

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