Ireland’s Apple escrow account cost €3.9m to set up

Spectre of negative interest rates set to wipe €70 million off account’s value per year

The €14.3 billion put into the Apple escrow account, which is comprised mainly of European bonds, includes interest attached to the original commission figure.

The €14.3 billion put into the Apple escrow account, which is comprised mainly of European bonds, includes interest attached to the original commission figure.

 

The Irish Government spent €3.9 million on consultancy fees and other costs setting up an escrow account last year to hold €14.3 billion of back-taxes and interest that the European Commission ordered it to collect from Apple, even as the matter is under appeal before courts in Luxembourg.

The figure was contained in a report published on Monday by the Comptroller and Auditor General on accounts of the public services for 2018.

Account

The report reiterated a previous projection by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which was responsible for setting up the escrow account, that the fund is set to decline by 0.5 per cent, or €70 million, a year as negative interest rates persist across the euro zone at a time when the European Central Bank is charging banks minus 0.5 per cent to hold their money.

The €3.9 million is separate to costs incurred by the State since it moved quickly to appeal the commission’s decision in August 2016 that Apple had secured €13 billion of illegal tax aid in Ireland as a result of two deals with Revenue, in 1991 and 2007.

Legal and other costs relating to that appeal had amounted to €7.1 million as of May. That was before the EU’s second-highest court, the General Court in Luxembourg, heard oral arguments from Ireland and Apple two weeks’ ago as part of their appeal.

The General Court is due to issue its ruling at the end of this year at the earliest, with that verdict also highly like to wind up under appeal before the Court of Justice of the European Union, which could take up to a further four years.

Bonds

The €14.3 billion put into the escrow account, which is comprised mainly of European bonds, includes interest attached to the original commission figure. The funds are being managed by three firms, Amundi Asset Management, Blackrock Investment Management (UK) and Goldman Sachs Asset Management International, under the eye of escrow agent and custodian Bank of New York Mellon.

The main argument of the Irish Government and Apple in their appeals against the commission is that it was wrong in assessing the iPhone maker’s tax liability in Ireland on the premise that valuable intellectual property (IP) behind group products lay in two Irish branches.

They contend that that the IP was based in, and controlled from, Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.