EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager defends her Apple tax findings

MEPs from across political divide support tax ruling against Ireland

Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner “We have a robust decision and we will defend it in court.” Photograph: Reuters

Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner “We have a robust decision and we will defend it in court.” Photograph: Reuters

 

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has launched a staunch defence of her finding that Ireland granted billions of euro in illegal state aid to Apple, as MEPs overwhelmingly endorsed the European Commission’s adverse ruling against the State.

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg during a scheduled debate on the landmark Apple ruling, Ms Vestager said Apple had paid only 0.005 per cent tax in 2014, representing €50 of every €1 million in profit made in Ireland.

“If taxes are not being paid by some, then they have to be paid by others, and that is why it is not fair competition when some member states hand out selective tax benefits.”

She said it was the responsibility of member states to ensure their national tax legislation is compliant with EU state aid rules, noting that the EU treaties invested the competition arm with the power to investigate breaches of state-aid law, whether in the form of cash, land or taxation. “We have a robust decision and we will defend it in court,” she said.

Once the full decision is published, tax authorities in other member states could assess if they were liable to reclaim unpaid taxes under national tax rules, she added.

“Looking ahead, it is the goal that all companies, big or small, pay taxes where they generate their profits.,” she said.

MEPs from across the political divide voiced support for the European Commissioner’s finding against Ireland, with a number of MEPs complimenting the Danish commissioner on her “courage” and “bravery.”

Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly and Brian Hayes were among the few MEPs to question the commission’s decision, while Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy criticised Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s decision to appeal the ruling.

Corporate tax

A number of MEPs urged the European Commission during the debate to come forward with robust proposals on a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) in the coming months. A proposal is expected from European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs Pierre Moscovici by November.

Earlier, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker vowed to continue the clamp down on tax evasion.

“A fair playing field means that in Europe consumers are protected from cartels and abuses by powerful companies, and that every company, no matter how big or small, has to pay its taxes where it makes its profits,” he said in his annual “state of the union” speech to the European Parliament.

While his written speech, which was later released by the commission, referenced Ireland’s tax practices and the Apple case, Mr Juncker excluded any mention of either in his address to the chamber.

Separately, Ms Vestager confirmed to Bloomberg News yesterday that the commission is investigating allegations that Ikea benefited from at least €1 billion in illegal state aid, though she added the investigation was at a very early stage. Ms Vestager confirmed the commission had received documentation relating to an investigation into Ikea’s tax activities by the Green group in the European Parliament earlier this year .

“We have received the documentation that the Greens have made and we are going through it but we have nothing to comment as the case stands right now,” she said.