The pot that’s available at the end of the day for either the Government or Apple from a drawn-out affair over the iPhone maker’s Irish tax affairs continues to shrink.
A quick recap: the State set up the escrow account in 2018 to hold €14.3 billion of alleged back taxes and interest that the European Commission ordered it to collect from Apple, even as the State and the iPhone maker appealed the matter before the courts in Luxembourg.
Apple and the Government won their case in 2020, with the General Court in Luxembourg deciding that the commission failed to show to “the requisite legal standard” that the US tech giant secured an unfair tax advantage in the decade to 2014.
A hearing on the commission’s appeal against that decision was heard by the European Court of Justice last month, with the court’s advocate general set to deliver his influential opinion on November 9th – ahead of a final ruling.
The escrow account is mainly made up of investments in euro-zone government bonds, rather than cash.
The effects of pervasive negative rates on European bonds and Apple being allowed to take out some money to pay taxes in other jurisdictions nibbled away at the original amount in the account between 2018 and 2021.
The Department of Finance said on Wednesday that a further €259 million was knocked off the fund’s value last year, to bring it down to less than €13.4 billion.
Some €253 million of the decline was the result of the value of bond investments falling as the market interest rates – or yield – on debt globally rose last year amid a flurry of central bank rate hikes. Bond prices and yields have an inverse relationship. The remaining €6 million hit was a result of operating expenses.
The funds held in the escrow account will be released after the ECJ ruling, which is expected next year. It will come as a consolation to the ultimate recipient that euro zone bond yields, including on German and Irish 10-year notes, are generally currently hovering around where they ended last year – even though the European Central Bank has continued to hike official rates.