Ireland set for courtroom showdown over €13bn Apple tax case

EU’s second-highest court to hear arguments from teams representing Ireland and Apple

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

 

The European Union’s second-highest court, the General Court in Luxembourg, is set to hear arguments on Monday and Tuesday from legal teams representing Ireland and Apple as they appeal the biggest antitrust decision ever delivered by the European Commission.

The commission ruled in August 2016 that Ireland had given the iPhone maker some €13 billion of illegal tax aid.

The Government is being represented by a team of six Irish barristers led by former attorney general Paul Gallagher and including Maurice Collins, Aoife Goodman, Suzanne Kingston, Catherine Donnelly and Barry Doherty, as well as UK barrister Philip Baker of Field Court Tax Chambers. Chief State Solicitor’s office solicitor Juliana Quaney will also be present.

Apple’s arguments will be articulated by UK barrister Daniel Beard of Monkton Chambers, who specialises in competition law.

Rulings

The commission’s case is that Revenue gave Apple an unfair advantage in two “rulings” in 1991 and 2007, which allowed the US technology giant to channel most of its European sale through “head office” divisions of two group subsidiaries in Ireland, which were non-resident for tax purposes.

The Government and Apple argue that because Apple’s products and services are created, designed and engineered in the US, the bulk of the profits of the units were due on the other side of the Atlantic.

Still, the State last year complied with a commission order that it collect €14.3 billion from Apple, including interest on the original €13 billion amount, and put it into escrow, pending the outcome of appeals against the 2016 decision.

A General Court ruling could to take months, as written pleadings will follow this week’s oral hearings. Any ruling is likely to end up under appeal before the EU’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, which could result in up to three or four further years of legal battle.